surviving death
Despite the plethora of anecdotes and scientific studies suggesting the existence of an 'afterlife,' the Western world as a whole is still largely in the dark about this all-important subject. Though good information does continue to present itself, there are many who are all-too-willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater - with a bucket of dogma informed by scientific materialism.

This week on MindMatters we look at some of the most interesting research on the subject, including the recent Netflix docu-series Surviving Death, based on journalist Leslie Kean's book of the same name. We also look at its relationship to consciousness, psi and values - and how the largely narrow perspective on these themes only goes to serve the "modern" trend to accept the nihilistic and toxic strain of ideologies, postmodernism, scientism, and other limiting belief systems. (See also Stephen Braude's Immortal Remains)

Running Time: 01:09:34

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Here is the transcript:

Elan: Hello and welcome back to MindMatters. Today we're going to be re-visiting a theme that we covered on one or maybe two shows now. It's the subject of 'the afterlife', and what evidence exists to support the idea that there is a non-physical realm or level of reality that we go to after our physical bodies expire, what the implications are for such a level of existence in contrast to all of the types of scientific materialist underpinnings of reality that we're constantly being indoctrinated with. And there seems to be no shortage of ideas and directions that we can go in discussing this subject because when we discuss the afterlife, the implications of a different level of reality open up all sorts of other questions. There is seemingly no limit to what's implied in the suggestion that this isn't everything there is.

So we will be getting into some of the implications of the best evidence, if such a word can be used, of the afterlife. Well, there's a lot of literature that continues to be put out on the subject, and so we recently got to see a documentary on Netflix called Surviving Death, which was divided in six parts, and each of them coming at the subject from a different angle. It's not a great, but a decent introduction to the subject, including parapsychology that I think many people will be very new to. Some of it demands skepticism, some of it, because of its emotional reality, invites more questioning and more thought on the subject. So we'll be getting into that a little bit as well.

I'll start in a roundabout way by just saying that having read some of the more esoteric literature on the subject, I was kind of sad to see that the series didn't cover any of that. The tomes of writings that were put out in the heyday of spiritualism in the late 19th century and early 20th century that was transcribed by authors who were given to automatic writing who were in communication with beings of the afterlife, who were attempting to convey what the reality is like and what purpose it serves, and how lives continue there and what the purpose of that level of reality is in the vast scheme of things.

So one of the most compelling parts of this whole story wasn't included in the show, which is okay.

Harrison: And debatable.

Elan: What?

Harrison: Personably I don't think that those were the most compelling. I think they're the most interesting, and the most like reading a science fiction or fantasy novel, but I wouldn't call them the most compelling in the sense of evidence. So this series was based on, and inspired by Leslie Kean's book, which we've got here, Surviving Death. She published this one in 2017, so it's four years old. She's a journalist, she's a good journalist. The main thrust of the book is to look at what she considers the best scientific evidence, the best evidence that can be brought to bear for a modern mind.

She interviews all the leading researchers in these various aspects. Like you mentioned the show has six episodes devoted to five themes, five threads of evidence. There's medium ship, reincarnation, near death experiences, signs from the dead, and deathbed apparitions, of which there are two types and I can't remember the specific terminology for each of them, but one is when a loved one or someone close to you dies elsewhere and you have a vision at night or you hear their voice or you have a vivid dream, or something happens. You might see them when they are not actually there, and then a day, a week, or a month later, depending on the time period and depending on how fast information will travel, you get news that that's when they died. They might have died in a specific manner that you saw them, like someone might have a vision of that person drenched in water and then you find out that they've been drowned, halfway across the world, something like that. Or, an actual deathbed vision of a person who's dying, and this seems to be a reoccurring theme among people who are dying who in the last moments, the last days or weeks, sometimes even longer than that, have visions of their loved ones who have previously died and waking visions. These people can be totally lucid, not necessarily with dementia or anything like that, just as lucid and coherent as they are ordinarily but they will be seeing things that aren't there, for other people.

So, Leslie Kean interviews a lot of the people involved in each of these separate fields including some philosophers, some medical doctors, psychologists, people of those sorts. She interviews them all. One of the people that shows up in the book is Steven Braude who we interviewed on SOTT years ago. He's a philosopher and he has written several books. One of them is called Immortal Remains - The Evidence For Life After Death, and so he takes a real analytic approach to all the evidence. He comes to a philosophical conclusion that you can't say one way or the other with certitude. A lot of philosophers and people looking into this will say 'oh it looks like the evidence tends in one direction. The evidence does seem to support the evidence of the afterlife', but given all of this other stuff that we know about the capacity of the human mind, we can't say definitively that it is so.

So we're left in this position, within the categories of how we in our time think about things and judge evidence, we can't say for certain that it's one thing and not the other. So, I can understand whatever position someone might take on the actual evidence, whether it's from a dogmatic traditional perspective where there's a very set belief in what the afterlife is or is not and what happens, and then maybe the agnostic approach which is leaving open either possibility. So for that you'd have to kind of reject at least the mainstream materialistic scientific worldview to be open to the possibility of something over and above that, or maybe somehow work with that, might include that, but with something else on top of it or over and above it.

Then, I guess the other extreme would be to simply reject the traditional notions of the afterlife and to go firmly into 'okay, yes it exists and this is what it's like but it doesn't have anything to do or resemble to any great degree the common options on the religious market'. It's kind of like a horseshoe theory where it's pretty close to the religious perspective.

So before we get into the stuff that's in the book, I wanted to comment on some of those perspectives that you're talking about from the 1800's and the very in-depth presentations of the afterlife. We'll get into something that I was planning on talking about because two of the episodes out of the six, while each type of evidences usually has one episode devoted to it, mediumship has two devoted to it, just because there's so many mediums and so many different types of mediumship as they show in the show. When you look at mediumship, I think mediumship for the most part is actually the weakest form of evidence that would actually convince a hard nosed sceptic out there.

One of the charming things about the show is that they interview a lot of people who've had experiences, right? I can't remember if it's in all of the types of evidence but usually there's a couple involved, and there's a death in the family and something will happen and the wife will be the motivating force and saying 'look what's going on' or 'look what happened, this is really weird'. It's the husband who is usually like 'oh no we can't get into that, that's crazy stuff'. Luckily for the show and for the wives in these situations, the husbands come around because you can see that it's not something that you can just dismiss out of hand or just write off completely. But you can see where they're coming from, where they're starting from. But when you see the stuff produced by mediums, this is where I think Braude's approach, even if I don't necessarily like it - I have a personality aversion sometimes to - might be kind of contradictory because I tend to be the same way - to the kind of hard nosed intellectual like 'oh this can't be proved', it's kind of annoying.

But, I think that can be helpful in certain situations, and maybe I'll give an example. When we did our interview with Mary Balogh, I brought up a case. I couldn't remember the woman's name of a medium, if you could call her that, from the early 1900's I think, named Pearl Curran who with an acquaintance of hers sat down at a Ouija board and they made contact with this woman named Patience Worth. The idea was that they eventually narrowed it down that Pearl was the channel, the medium, the woman she was with - I think her name was Elisabeth Hutchings or something like that, wasn't necessary so they could actually contact Patience Worth when this other woman wasn't there. So Pearl was the woman that, you could say, channeled this personality for the next twenty five years. Patience gave a back story of who she was and a story of the life that she'd lived, and that she was a writer. So she actually wrote poems, novels, aphorisms, all kinds of literary works that she produced, allegedly, through Pearl Curran on a Ouija board very rapidly and remarkably without any errors.

So as I kind of alluded to or described not too completely in that interview with Mary Balogh that we did, she could sit down and start writing a novel, as Patience Worth, and then cut off for a week or a month, come back and continue pretty much mid-sentence, and then once the novel was complete, all that had to be done was the minor editing job of separating the words, and maybe adding punctuation. But there were no major revisions done and she wrote tons of novels this way. Some of them were best sellers at the time, but they weren't really remembered because they were kind of written off as a gimmick because it was this Patience Worth who doesn't exist, writing through this medium at a Ouija board. So people didn't really catch on. She wasn't a real novelist.

So the question was, was Patience Worth a real person? And Braude devotes a whole chapter to the case and goes into it in depth, and he comes to the conclusion that there's no evidence that this Patience Worth ever existed or was ever a real person. And the best explanation that seems to be the case, for this particular case, was that Patience Worth was essentially a creation of Pearl Curran's subconscious. It was Pearl who had the creative ability. She had the innate talent but she had no outlet for it in her life. She couldn't be a writer and so the manifestation of Patience Worth was a way for her to express her creativity which was remarkable because there doesn't seem to have been a novelist before or since who had this creative capacity to just open up the channel, like open up the floodgates, and just let a novel come out perfect in its first draft that doesn't need any revision. I'll get into some other remarkable things she did later.

Elan: Did you say that was all through a Ouija board?

Harrison: All through a Ouija board. I'll do that right now. So like I say, I don't see this as evidence for the afterlife but I do see it as evidence that the human mind is probably infinitely more remarkable than most people have an idea of, if you look at some of the things that she was able to do. There was a guy that worked with her and did some kind of challenges with her, tests just to see what she could do. W.F. Prince was this guy's name. I can't remember who he was but he set up a bunch of interesting challenges for Pearl, or for Patience. This was in the section called 'stunts of composition'. I'll just read it, for example:
On May 6th, 1920, Prince asked Patience to dictate a poem to John Curran", (I believe that's Pearl's husband), "while Pearl simultaneously wrote a letter to a friend.
So she's sitting with one hand composing a letter to a friend, with the other hand she's moving the Ouija board to different letters.
Before beginning, Patience said 'I shall set a wee wit of a singing while she sets the bannock.'
Patience often spoke in this kind of dialect. It's very poetic and hard to understand for a 21st century person (chuckles). I'll just read a sample of the poem and the letter she wrote. So the poem that Patience was composing on the Ouija board is called Willow of the Wisp:
Oh you marsh light, flashing across the marshes, beckoning
Did I see a beacon to tomorrow?
Give me a sign, oh you banshee, give me a sign
Make tomorrow's question marked against the sky
Fitfully as thy flash, oh you marsh light flashing
Then shall I be more accustomed to the questioning that I live.
Meanwhile, she's writing:
Dear Dotsie, I am writing you while I write a poem, it's a new trick. Do you like it? See here honey, my hands are full. I don't like it honey, it's like baking bread and stirring soup. I am sick of the job. I wish you were here and that we could go over this together. This is a mess of a letter honeybug. I'm nuts, this is some chase. Slinging slang and purring poetry. Jack is doing best in this marathon, this is fine business and I'm up against it. Finniss honey, and I call it going home... Pearl.
So she composes this letter while she's writing a poem at the same time with different hands. On another occasion, he got her to compose a dialogue in her characteristic archaic dialect between a lout and wench at a fair. And then interspersed between lines of this dialogue, she was to compose a poem on the folly of atheism. So, that's exactly what she did. I'll read a little bit of it but again the dialect is kind of hard to understand and I'll leave out the ellipsed letters so that they make words that you can understand, so:
Have you seen the mummers setting up a puppet show
A thin the fielding, nigh
(interspersed with)
Who doubts his god is but a lout
Who pits his wisdom with egotery has lost his mark
Aye, I see them fetch and past, and bide of a ribbon and a new latchet
And a shoon bucklin entassled thongs
To doubt is but to cast thee as a stone
Unto the very heart of god
Aye, and I fetched me a whistle and heard the doings of the village
That mark the smithy
Hade a new wench and she be left
Etc., etc., etc. She composed a poem immediately after being told to, with each line starting on the new letter of the alphabet. So:
"A task is before me
Can I oh god perform it
Dole me patience
Enough that I be sustained
For I am indeed in need of strength
Etc., etc., etc. And she's doing all this immediately at full speed while sitting at a Ouija board. That's in addition to the novels that just flowed out of her, seemingly, from nowhere. And she herself didn't take any personal credit for it, kind of like Mary Balogh and for many novelists it just comes to them. Well for her it was literally watching the novel being composed on a Ouija board.

Adam: Okay, so this might be a strange thought. So I was reading one of 'The Westcott Series' books and one of the characters can play piano. Now he had never taken any formal lessons, so he just naturally had this ability to sit down and play. So I was thinking about it and you know there's virtuosos of that sort who do exist and are real. Mozart was one of them who just kind of picked up the piano at a very, very young age and just took to it like water.

So it made me think that there is some kind of information and an information field, right? And all we do, when we do things is we tap into it and there's multiple ways of tapping into it. For most of us, the only way for us to be able to access the information in order to play music is by having the hard wired code into our neurology, into the physical motor units in order for that to come through. However, perhaps it's possible to have access to that without all of the actual motor neuron ground work. So I was thinking about it in terms of what you were talking about - she's able to tap into that part of the information field without ever having actually taken any writing courses. Did she ever take any writing courses or anything like that?

Harrison: I can't remember the specifics but I'm pretty sure she didn't, but she had some kind of passing familiarity with Chaucer. But she hadn't devoted herself to a serious study or had experience in writing. It kind of just came out of nowhere.

Adam: That's pretty much what I had in my mind as to how this could possibly work. Now again, what does this mean and how does this actually work and what does that then open the doors to, in terms of possibilities? I don't know but I think that's pretty cool. There were the stories of Gurdjieff being able to watch somebody do something for a couple minutes and he would do it himself, and I'm wondering if that was what he was doing. I don't know.

Harrison: There is a question about the nature of human genius - what it is - and no one really knows what it is. There are some ideas about what some of those things might be, like with the virtuoso musicians, one idea is that they are reincarnated. But then the question as Braude raises, 'Okay, well let's assume that's the case. Then how did the previous version get that talent? Did they develop it in their life?' Is it possible to develop it in life? Or maybe for some people it just does come out of nowhere. But then you could put both of them together - maybe it comes out of nowhere and maybe that genius will then reincarnate in another genius and you'd have two geniuses.

So if you're open to the possibilities of both, then maybe there is more than one explanation for it. Maybe it is just like everything in human nature, part of that bell curve where some people are at that tiny end of the bell curve where they just have a lot more of something than everyone else does. Maybe talent is distributed like that. Maybe it doesn't have to have anything to do with reincarnation, but maybe it sometimes does. What I find to be some of the most compelling evidence for the continuation of life after death would be the reincarnation cases. For some reason those just kind of strike me as the most compelling, and they have two really good cases in this show which are discussed in the book too. So I'd recommend either reading the book or watching the show to get familiar with them because they're really compelling and interesting.

But one of the things about kids who remember past lives, which is a phenomenon first studied in depth by Ian Stevenson, a medical doctor and psychiatrist - I can't remember if he was a psychiatrist or not, but he collected tons of cases from all over the world but mostly starting out in South and Southeast Asia. These would be kids who from a very young age, sometimes between three and five years old, sometimes before that, will say things and tell their parents about 'well my previous mommy did this' or 'my old mommy did this' or 'you're not my mommy, this is my mommy' and 'my name isn't John, it's George', and then they would give details. And in a lot of cases in Asia, they might remember 'oh I was from this village', and so they would bring the kid to that village and then the kid would point out their previous parents or 'that was my brother' or 'that's the guy that killed me'. So there were a lot of interesting cases like that in Ian Stevenson's work and also Jim Tucker who they interview for this show, and who's interviewed for Leslie Kean's book.

Some of these kids show an unexpected, unexplainable preternatural knowledge of something that they are obsessed with. One of the cases, we'll call him James, was a kid who from a very young age was obsessed with planes. He would draw pictures of plane crashes and he would say 'oh, this is me, I died in a plane crash' and he'd have nightmares for months or years, I can't remember. His parents collected all this detail and his dad was on it, he was collecting every little thing he said and he was looking it up and finding things out. This kid would tell his parents things about planes that he couldn't have known, he couldn't have found anywhere, and that they had no idea about. He would name the planes 'oh that's this kind of plane, and that's this kind of plane'. He wasn't on the internet. This was in the early 2000's I think, late 1990s. He didn't have access to this kind of stuff. It was just stuff that he knew, somehow.

So there does seem to be the possibility, again, for some of these 'skills', even in this case if it's just facts to carry over that kind of information. If they were to sit him in a flight simulator, it would have been interesting at the time to see if this kid remembered the actual motor neurons, the actual movements that accompanied flying a plane. Long story short for this case, they found, eventually through just a couple of things that he happened to say, they managed to find the aircraft carrier and the squadron or whatever that he was part of, and the guy who died in the battle of Iwo Jima that matched everything he said.

So that's pretty remarkable. Again, Braude would say 'well it doesn't necessarily mean that it's actual life after death', but that's because Braude is open to the idea of Psi. So what you might say is that from a strictly intellectual, scientific, philosophical perspective, the only way to account for all this evidence is either to accept life after death or to accept that Psi is a real phenomenon. If you don't have either of those, then you can't explain it.

So either way, the scientific materialist perspective can't account for this kind of evidence.It might be able to account for Pearl Curran, but to go there you'd have to still accept that the subconscious mind is far more mysterious and powerful than most people give it credit for, which in itself is a pretty remarkable position to take or to consider and to look at.

One other case, kind of like Pearl Curran, there is a famous experiment - I think it's called the Felix experiment - where a group of people who are familiar with the literature decided to get together and create a personality. I can't remember if it was at a Ouija board or if it was using table tapping, but somehow they deliberately created a personality that they created a background for and a story for. And then, that personality manifested seemingly autonomously among them and they engaged in dialogue with it.

The non-Psi explanation for this, even if there may be an element of Psi involved, that I think the direction Braude goes in is it's essentially like creating a dissociated personality, a multiple personality, but it isn't a fragment motivated by any kind of mental illness, that it is utilizing the dissociative capacity of the mind to create something. You can create all the personalities you want in your mind consciously because that's what novelists do all the time, they're creating personalities. When it gets into the realm of psychopathology is when there's actually some pathological dissociation going on, and that creates these autonomous personalities that might switch or take over for psychological reasons.

But that capacity within the mind still exists to close off and shape a personality within the master personality that seemingly has its own autonomy, its own history. It can create a history, and it can create an entire story for its existence and then manifest it and tell it to you. Without any of your conscious awareness it's coming from your own mind. It's kind of like novelists when they write a story. A character manifests itself and speaks in its own voice and has its own story, but with either dissociative identity or multiple personality, or with these more Psi-related things, it seems to be an external actual personality; it seems to be an actual person. A novelist is aware, to some degree that - well this is debatable too - aware that it's just a character. It's fiction, but it's a remarkable fiction. It has a life of its own. Maybe it actually does exist.

Another source for great literature is "What if in these great sci-fi or fantasy stories, what if these characters actually exist in some alternate universe and we're just observing them.

Adam: Or tapping into them. It puts the finger on something that I was thinking about as you were talking about this guy's explanation for Psi as being a possible explanation for some of the reincarnation stuff. I was wondering if maybe that's possible but then you start to get into a realm where you're undermining the position or possibility of consciousness, unless you're assuming that Psi can create consciousness or consciousness is Psi of some sort.

Harrison: I can't remember if this is Braude's position, but a similar position would be that the child, for whatever reason, is tapping into that actual previous life and then remembering it as their own when it wasn't actually their own. So that would be in that specific case. Of course, the question arises, why and how does that happen? What makes that so different, why would a child have this experience of 'well I WAS that person'?

Adam: Yeah, it's a very different thing from being able to sit in a classroom, somebody asked a question and an answer came out of my mouth. Before I even realized what the question was, the answer came out of my mouth. I had no conscious control, I had not studied this thing, it just came out. So I can see where that happens because it has happened to me. However, that is totally different than being like 'I experienced being in a plane and crashing'. That's two very different things and that's why I was getting to the point of 'well if you get into that realm where it's just a subconscious thing', then we're talking about having to re-formulate what consciousness is. If somebody's consciousness can access it in that way and have that experience then...

Harrison: That's why I sometimes find a philosophical, sceptic approach annoying because it is annoying (chuckles).

Adam: Yeah.

Harrison: But useful as a check now and then to just kind of stay grounded.

Elan: Well I want to comment on that because we're all making leaps of assumption or putting up walls to the possibilities of consciousness or afterlife existence, and there seems to be, from my perspective, when I said earlier that there's certain literature that I found very compelling, you might say that even though I reserve some skepticism as to what some of the so-called proofs are of an afterlife, you can say that I assign high probability to the validity of the idea.

So using that as a point of departure, when I've read some of these readings, some of this channeled material, some of this automatic writing that is so filled, from my perspective, with some amount of wisdom and insight into the human condition, into a spiritual hierarchy that could be said to exist in the universe in terms of development and in terms of being of a more or less greater level of being, to me, having assigned a certain amount of probability to the reality of an afterlife, I find that is the most useful material to my mind.

By the same token, this discussion has taken on some interesting directions because really, the possibilities for consciousness are almost limitless, in a sense. And we've been so hit over the head with very narrow definitions of what we're capable of, of what is possible to perceive of cognitive ability that, if anything, this material provides a basis for more questions. So that's also what I find kind of stimulating about looking at this material because Leslie Kean's book and this docu-series that's been based on it, really, really just scratches the surface of what's out there.

Adam: For me, because I haven't looked into physical mediums, as an example, so I was able to learn some cool things about physical mediums that I had had no idea about. I think one of the good hallmarks of something that's worth engaging in is when you walk away with more questions than answers, in a good way, in a curious way, not in a movie with all the plot holes in the world, like some recent things that shall not be named. It sparks a curiosity in you that gives you more questions than answers in a way that leaves you more informed. Even though you have more questions you're still more informed than you were before and I think that's a good hallmark or a good benchmark for when some things are worth engaging in. So, I just wanted to throw that out.

Harrison: Well you could say that this book and a show like the one we watched is more of what might be the evidence that suggests that life after death is real. Then the stuff that you're talking about is; what might be the in-depth details about the nature of that afterlife, right? So, those would be kind of, I think, two different questions, or could be. So once you get into that question, then it's entering the jungle where it's a matter of sorting through the numerous different portrayals of what the afterlife looks like and separating the wheat from the chaff. I think that's why a person like Kean or Braude or the filmmakers avoid that is because that's a huge project and what's your standard aside from 'well I like this one', right? That would be in itself a huge project to engage in.

Elan: I completely agree. I've read enough of these books now where I've yearned to see some representation of it that didn't look or sound like Michael Landon's 1990 series Highway to Heaven, just something that gave an eloquence, a beauty, to all of the wisdom that seems to be conveyed through these books that are meant, not to give us a solace in the idea that there's more to this mortal coil, but that there is much more to life and to the cosmos and human existence and the existence of the universe that we just don't have the background for

We have these very shorthand explanations of it, I think through a lot of the world's religions and it seems to me to be very incomplete and wanting because if you're looking for directions to grow into, what does that even mean for oneself? What is it about an understanding of how things may in fact exist at other levels that inform our existence? So that's why I come back to these books - Life Beyond the Veil being one that I've mentioned repeatedly on this show that has scenes in it that are just, to my mind, a little astonishing that at least speak to my own sensibility, if such a thing can be described as such.

But by the same token, I've watched this series - I didn't get to read the book yet - but thought as a kind of a primer, even though a lot of this has already been out there and distributed in articles and books and discussed on various talk shows here and there as human interest stories, it does manage to put together some fairly best evidence, best case scenarios, for the probability of afterlife existence for a lot of people. And I found myself wanting to say to friends and family who are maybe of the more skeptical bent; 'Hey, watch this. Don't believe in it necessarily but just watch it. Listen to the people's experiences of seeing departed ones visit them close to their death beds. Listen to the people who were trapped under the river surface in their kayaks for an hour and saw themselves at a distance and were clinically dead for a little while.'

Adam: And then we're able to describe what some of the people that came to help them were wearing or what people said they were being operated on while this person was either dead on the table or completely zonked out because of the anesthesia.

Elan: Yeah. You don't have to decide. You don't have to make a decision one way or the other, but it is material that if you're a thinking person - I'll say that - if you have any questions about anything in your life about life itself - this will add to them.

Adam: And to engage with it in a way that's not totally just outrightly dismissive because you can look at it and you can just go like 'oh, they're crazy', and don't engage with it anymore than that, which is disrespectful. It's intellectually lazy. It's just lazy to me, for somebody to watch it and just say 'oh they're crazy'. Yeah, you can use that as a possible reason for what happened and what they were saying, but yeah that's totally possible, or there's something else going on and we need to be able to account for it. If there's something here that happened, we need to know what it is and how it fits into the greater narrative of things so if we're wrong about something, we need to know. If we're basing all of our lives on a specific assumption and that assumption is wrong, we will have a price to pay.

Elan: Harrison you mentioned a little earlier how it was the mothers of the children who were experiencing these reincarnational knowledge dumps, like James with the fighter planes during WW2 or the Indian boy who knew things that only the departed chief of the tribe knew very specifically, and I think there were a couple of other cases where it was the mom who had stepped into the situation out of an empathetic desire to help their child with the nightmares, with this other body of knowledge that they had no right to know so well and to continue to incorporate into their own lives.

Steven Braude comes at this from a very scientific, analytical perspective as you mentioned before, but there's also, I think, an emotional component to all of this which is one of the threads throughout the series and throughout our own lives, which is that intelligence or thinking ability is also informed by an empathic emotional desire to be of assistance, to be of a giving nature. And there's certainly a danger to that too, as is found in the 'New Age' community that might take emotionalism further than is helpful. It could be detrimental if there isn't a certain level of critical thinking and rational analysis.

Adam: But at the heart of it the reason why people do things is because there's some kind of relationship that's drawing them towards it. Even if it's a totally egoistic thing, or a totally narcissistic thing, it's a relationship with oneself. I think in that respect it's pulling them towards doing or searching or looking or doing something.

Harrison: What were you guys talking about, what's a practical example there?

Adam: What the hell are you guys talking about? I don't understand a thing you said... (laughter)

Harrison: What's an example of the dynamic that you're talking about?

Elan: Getting back to the mothers of the stories, there wouldn't have been greater knowledge - and the father in the case of James - there wouldn't have been a greater knowledge base for the probable existence of an afterlife reality had not they cared enough about their children to investigate it, instead of dismissing them. I mean there was a real desire to help this kid come to terms with all of the stuff that is really quite abnormal to be dealing with at such a young age. So it's that impetuous, that empathy, that care for the child, like the dad who took the boy to the very island where the past life man lost his life. I mean this was an act of pure love and kind of therapy, to go through all that trouble. It was very touching, actually. So there is another type of intelligence, an emotional intelligence, if you will, that informs some of this knowledge I think.

Harrison: Yeah I wanted to bring up something very similar and that is to take a couple of points out of what you both said for the last few minutes. I think that the starting point, the most healthy and rational starting point is to just first of all accept that these kinds of things happen, whatever the explanation is for them. For example, until reading the book I hadn't been aware of how common it is for people who are dying to have waking visions of their dead loved ones. I hadn't known how common it is, but it's actually pretty well among hospice workers that this kind of stuff happens. But because they reject the idea that it could be true, a lot of people are closed off increasingly to the idea that it even happens. So it's just something that happens that the people that deal with the dead and the dying are aware of. I hadn't been exposed to that. It wasn't part of my worldview that that is a thing that happens regularly, or it could happen regularly.

Adam: What's the percentage of the number of people that experience it, do you remember?

Harrison: No I can't remember.

Adam: Was it a high like 70% or more like 20%? No idea?

Harrison: I have no recollection.

Elan: I thought it was around 50, based on one of the things that I had read, but it is surprisingly high. And it didn't surprise me because I had heard anecdotally stories like that where a friend's mother on her deathbed pretty much, had that vey experience of seeing people coming to her, and her saying 'Don't you see?'

Harrison: So if you're aware that that kind of thing happens, it's not going to be a surprise to you and regardless of what you may think about the reality of if they're seeing them or not, it's important to know that it happens to be able to deal with it. The same thing with the children who remember past lives. If you live in a world where that thing never happens, like a lot of these families it comes out of nowhere, you're surprised by it, you don't know what to do, your child is in terror every night because of these memories or nightmares, and you have no options. You don't know what to do. Even if a culture totally rejected the possibility of an afterlife, if they were aware of these things happening and had responses to them, they'd be able to deal with them. It's like 'He doesn't really remember a past life, it's just a coincidence that everything that he says matches up with his actual past life, but here's what we do when a child delusionally thinks that he was this person that actually existed and knows all these details of his life, so let's do this thing'.

And I think that the reason that we reject that is because that's an absurd way of looking at it because you have to reject the fact that he actually is remembering things that actually happened that he could have no access to. But regardless, if more parents were just aware that it's a possibility that 'My child will have memories of a past life whether real or not, well here's what we can do to help him get through it'.

Elan: And that's something I thought the show did well because as in the case of the Indian boy who was basically...

Adam: His own grandfather?

Elan: the head tribesman, he was already born into a culture that was very accepting of this type of thing.

Harrison: Yeah, expected it.

Elan: ...respectful of ancestors. So it was built in. It wasn't a thing whereas in most western cultures it's the stuff of sci-fi. It's a curiosity and an entertainment and a novelty, and not part of our worldview. So acknowledging what may very well be or should be part of our worldview through these facts and not being dismissive of them outright, I think is just a good idea. And on that point it was very interesting to read some of the reviews of this program because you had a lot of reviewers saying things like 'Well there was no equal attention given by scientific materialist analysis'. When I read that I thought 'But you know what, everything is so biased in that direction anyway, for the most part, that here finally is a reasonable, not perfect because there was things that stretched my beliefs and possibilities or at least caused me to question with some scepticism what it was we were actually seeing, as in the case of the mediums...'

Harrison: Even then, the mediums were entertaining, if nothing else...

Elan: Yes true. But certainly there is a kind of a vociferousness, an anger, a dismissiveness to any kind of presentation of this kind that is kind of a knee jerk reaction. It seems to me that there is some segment of the population that is either so indoctrinated with materialist science or somehow constitutionally incapable of taking on this information as part of their thinking and being. It's like there is a wall inside of their minds that has been so built up and strengthened and fortified that they are prepared to come up with any rationalization to dismiss out of hand any of this information.

So that's unfortunate. By the same token, I don't think most of the people who are going to be tuning into this program are of that bent because they're probably already predisposed to some level of open-mindedness, and at best they have more questions that they can pursue for themselves about the reality of this whole subject.

Harrison: Well, the last observation I wanted to make about watching the show, and this kind of relates back to what we were just saying about being aware of these kinds of things, even for their therapeutic value, is that one of the themes of course is that it's six episodes about death, death which is a part of everyone's life, whether they want it or not. You see the amount of grieving that people go through when a loved one dies, especially if it's a child or a young person or someone that dies unexpectedly and just out of nowhere. They're here one moment and then totally unexpectedly - you were expecting to have years and years with them and then they're gone.

So the family members and the loved ones go through this immense grieving process naturally. Now one of the things that stood out throughout the series is the therapeutic effect of, again, these types of things that actually bring some sense of closure and some sense of acceptance and ease the grieving process.

Again, from a strictly utilitarian perspective, even if you don't want to change your worldview it would make sense if we're looking at what actually works - again, I think that there's a high degree of probability that this is actually true that there is life after death, that a lot of these things are veridical experiences, they actually do happen in some sense in the way that they appear to happen - but for a culture or for a person who rejects that possibility, then I'd say the next best thing would be to take the platonic noble lie into account where you say 'Oh well I don't believe that the afterlife actually exists, but look at the effect that it has on actually helping people to function'. Again, I don't agree with that as the approach to take, but I think it would be better than nothing.

There was the one couple that set up a group to put people in touch with certain mediums and it was a hodgepodge of a whole bunch of different perspectives and approaches. The one that sticks in my mind is the man, who was a medium who draws portraits, so faces of the spirits, of the dead people that he's seeing, and then relays a message.

But, things like that, even in the mediumship which I'm most skeptical about but which I still think that there are actual good mediums, it seems to me that it would make sense to take a scientific approach to find out what actually works the best to help people get through grief because in a lot of these cases you see the success stories like the couple who set up this retreat center and program. I think they had lost a daughter, I can't remember for sure, but even though they still feel -- not just them but a lot of people in the series - even though they still grieve and they still miss their daughter or their son or their husband or wife or whatever, that there's more of an acceptance to it and they can live their lives because you also see some people who are in a terrible place who can't move on with their lives.

So yeah, I haven't totally formulated that thought but similar to the kids who remember past lives, isn't it better to figure out something that actually works to help them as opposed to just blocking it off and not acknowledging that it's actually happening? Or to give some interpretation on it and impose that interpretation on a kid that potentially only makes things worse? There does seem to be methods that actually have a good outcome.

Elan: And there's another reason why I think all of this is important and that is that it's anti-nihilism since so much of what's worse about developments in the world today are due to a nihilistic perspective in regards to postmodernism and ideology and technology and political movements. So much of it is informed by this anti-nonphysical reality perspective that this is having at least an openness to all this, I think, subverts and undercuts all the kind of anti-spiritual, for lack of a better word, movements that are being kind of foisted upon people en masse. There's a raging war right now with intelligent design, which is another subject we'll be revisiting, that lays out the warfare of these two sides in a way, that is very important to think about and to consider and to realize in all of the many different directions and implications that an understanding of these issues have. So that's all I wanted to add to that subject.

Adam: To expand on the points you were kind of making a little bit, the two perspectives, the totally materialistic versus the non-materialistic perspectives, I mean if all we are is just bags of meat and the only thing we have is the time we have here and now, then one could make the case that 'why should I not go for what gives me the most pleasure in the here and now moment because I'm not guaranteed tomorrow and if I did die tomorrow then there's nothing left of me, so I'm totally justified in acting or behaving whatever way I see fit at the time'.

However, if we have this different perspective where once you're dead you're not gone and if somebody that you know and love dies and you can still have conversations with them and they can still communicate with you in some way, well then it's not all about you and it's not all about the here and now. So it changes your value system and expands the possibilities for what is good and right and how best to behave.

Now I would still say that even if there was only the here and now moment and there was no hereafter, I still think that it's better to live a life of goodness even if there's no heavenly reward afterwards. I still say it's morally better to live your life in a way of service to others more than the service of yourself and your own ego. But we can take that perspective and have a life after death and it provides a greater impetus for behaving in a way that is considerate of other people, and you're less likely to get controlled, in certain ways because again, as with all of the covid hysteria, there's a lot of fear of death. But if we have a perspective where death isn't the worst thing that can happen to you, because that's kind of the shift of the perspective, the perspective has shifted from what matters most is how you lived your life as opposed to 'are you still alive?'

So it has shifted in the wrong direction. So if we can shift it back, then we will no longer be cowed into the fear state that allows for the manipulative control. Because again; if death is the worst thing that can happen, then you want to stave off death by every means possible. If death is not the worst thing in the world and it's not the worst thing that can happen to you, then we need to be addressing THOSE things because death isn't the most important.

So that's why I think this stuff is so important to look into, to research, to share, to learn more about, because it can have a real benefit for everybody who engages with it.

Elan: Well I like what you said about - was it enlarging your value system or...

Adam: Something like that.

Elan: ...or something like that, because it is about a value system, in a way. You take your values with you wherever you go. Your environment is part of you, in a very real sense. Imagine, not necessarily a carrot and a stick situation, but wouldn't you like to be in a place that fits a positive disposition for most people? If you have a hellish mindset all the time, it makes sense that you might find yourself in a similar environment one day because that's where you fit.

In any case, this isn't the end of this discussion but it is the end of the show and we thank you guys for listening. Take good care and we'll be coming at you soon with another show.