Ever wonder why some people dream and others don’t? Sometimes I do, especially when they say, ‘I don’t dream.’ Dreams, it turns out, is something everybody has a theory about. So I decided to find the real story behind dreams and the role they play in our life.
The main ingredient to dreaming is sleep. One would think we just go to sleep and that is it. No, we go through stages and sleep in cycles, like everything else. The first stage we experience is when we transition from being awake to sleep. This stage lasts only a few minutes and occurs regularly throughout the night (Soldatos & Paparrigopoulos, 2005). Each time we get up to get a drink of water or had to use the restroom, we are in one of those transition stages. When we lay back down, we are off to sleep as though nothing had happened. The second stage is characterized by theta and beta waves (which are types of brains waves) and play a role in slow wave sleep (SWS), which is deeper and longer. During SWS heart rate, blood pressure, and other bodily systems slow down (Wickens, 2005). This is a very uneventful and restful sleep known as non-REM sleep: no dreams yet. Dreams begin about 90 minutes from the time we begin the transition (Wickens, 2005). Dreaming occurs during rapid eye movement or REM, when suddenly, everything changes, facial muscles begin twitching, our heart rate increases, and we may even thrash about. As far as the brain is concerned, we are awake and our mind sends the appropriate signals to parts of the body.
Some may ask. That’s because I’m dreaming, right?
Well, yes, but not all dreams occur in the same stage of sleep. Most dream activity takes place during REM, but dreams can also occur during non-REM sleep. Non-REM dreams tend to go nowhere, repeating themselves several times (Wickens, 2005).
So, why do I thrash around at night when I sleep? Another may ask.
In 1953, Aserinsky and Kleitman discovered the brain was active during sleep and these periods of activity occur about every 90 to 100 minutes. During these periods REM occurs; heart rate and breathing increases (Wilkinson). Today, neuroimaging shows activity in the visual and emotional centers of the brain (Dixit, 2007). The amygdala, one of the central figures of the emotional (limbic) system and key to the 'fight or flight' response, is very active. Emotions such as fear, anger, and anxiety are telltale signs of impending danger. Thus, emotions may direct our dreams.
One may wonder; why am I afraid of things in my dreams that I am not afraid of when I am awake?
The same neuroimaging that shows an active amygdala also shows a mostly inactive executive center. Most of our executive center is disconnected while we sleep, leaving us to the mercy of our emotions. The executive center, located in the prefrontal cortex, is where our problems solving and decision making processes take place.
Dreams begin at the simplest part of the brain, which is the brain stem and then move through the emotional system. During this process, our dreams are a collage of images - images that make no sense. As our dreams move through the brain they begin to make sense because they enter the only part of the executive still functioning – the medial frontal cortex. Here, they become somewhat organized (Wilkinson, 2006). The medial frontal cortex is tied to social behavior. Most social activities are bound by some form of social etiquette, which allows us to react to embarrassing events (blushing), praise, and points in between. I suspect this is why we suddenly awaken in a cold sweat, a racing heart, or, ahem, one of those embarrassing accidents.
This is really nice, but some may thing, but what good does this do me?
I like to understand something before working with it. What we have learned is the focus of the dreaming process is emotions. Thus, it would be wise to direct our attention to the underlying emotions of our dreams. Margaret Wilkinson (2007) quotes Carl Jung as saying, “Dreams do not deceive, they do not lie, they do not distort or disguise, but naively announce what they are and what they mean… they are invariably seeking to express something that the ego does not know and does not understand.” You may be asking some of these questions. What are my dreams telling me? Are my interpretations correct, or are they just guesses? What is it about me that I do not understand? Let’s consult some authorities.
Everyone has a theory about what dreams about. The most infamous is Freud, who saw dreams as twisted paths allowing us to fulfill forbidden desires (Dixit, 2007). For him dreams became wishes in the guise of nightmares. Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D. clinical assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School believes the “purpose of dreaming is almost the same as the purpose of waking and thinking: to solve problems.” (Honchman & Walch, 2004) Antti Revonsou, a Finnish psychologist believes dreams allow us to practice survival skills (Dixit, 2007). Allan Hobson, a Harvard dream researcher likes to say dreams are the “noise the brain makes while it’s doing its homework.” (Dixit, 2007) We have choices, and any one of them is correct – correct for you while I select something different. In any case, what are our dreams trying to tell us?
Consider this sequence of events. I see a group of people fire upon some pedestrians. Their leader gets out of the vehicle and says, “I have to do that because everybody wants something from me.” Wilda Tanner, in her The Mystical Magical Marvelous World of Dreams dream dictionary tells me I have a desire to kill an aspect of myself. 10,000 Dreams and Their Traditional Meanings tell me that I will experience a loss of livelihood. Then again, if I look at what the emotional undercurrent may be, perhaps there is an indication of needing to be careful about shooting my mouth off in public, or bragging too much. I could also be the leader and there is something I need to say.
As anyone can see, interpreting dreams is risky business. Fortunately, when it comes to interpreting our own dreams, some easy suggestions exist. First, if you are going to use a dream dictionary, use only one. More than one promotes confusion. The mind is pliable and will adapt to whatever system of definition you choose. Clichés are often considered useless, but in this instance become handy. For instance, if the shooter were firing into the night, the cliché would be, ‘he’s shooting in the dark.’
Go with what feels right for you. Don’t just accept what someone else tells you, or what you read in those dictionaries. Last, if you meditate and experience visions, the same suggestions apply.
When it comes to interpreting dreams, the most difficult aspect is determining what kind of dream it is. The most common response is that all dreams are messages. This is true, just as all events are news worthy events, but are they relevant. That is up to you. I find that some dreams help us work through challenges, some dreams hold messages, and other dreams are just dreams.
Before interpreting any dream, I always ask what a person watched or read prior to going to sleep. Plenty of times, I have gone on adventures with Dr. Who, solved mysteries with Leroy Jethro Gibbs, or studied behavior with Aaron Hotchner and Dave Rossi. Obviously, these dreams are just dreams, but not always. The secret is in the emotional content. Entertaining dreams will leave us refreshed in the morning, while troubling dreams will not. Most of the time, those entertaining dreams are forgotten. The more serious ones tend to stick with us a bit longer; not much longer.
Pay attention to how you feel during the dream. Describing how one feels when something significant occurs is difficult, but you will know when you have a dream you should pay attention to. Whenever a dream raises questions, jot it down. Whenever a dream leaves an impression, write it down. If you feel pain during a dream, wake up, because something is going on in your waking world. While dreaming, the mind will alter the dreamscape to accommodate outside stimuli.
I would like to touch on lucid dreaming. During the 1980s, I stumbled on an article the science magazine Omni. The article was brief, but made an impression. Lucid dreaming is that state of mind we sometimes slip into just before dozing off into nap. Think of them as preambles to dreams, because you are not quite asleep and not exactly awake. These episodes don’t have the feel of a dream. They are crisp as is reality and are often called premonitions. One may see them as prophetic because we believe we are catching glimpses of future events. These dreams have fluid quality to them.
Another aspect of lucid dreaming is the ability to control dreams. These preambles allow us to recognize the shift into a dreaming state. When we aware we are dreaming, we can exert some control over them. This comes in handy when experiencing a disturbing dream.
Dream states are mental states driven by emotions. This piece of information is valuable. If you are unable to control your emotions, you will not be able to influence your dreams states. The medial frontal cortex is the only part of the executive center still functioning. From here, we can influence the dream by exerting what is logical to you. Making your way through a meat locker may be disturbing. However, a junkyard may be less distracting.
Before you can control your dreams, you must be aware you are dreaming. This is not an easy feat. Keeping a dream journal will help you develop awareness of the dream state, and interpret those dreams that hold meaning.
Remember, we have a dream almost every 90 minutes or so. They begin as a confusing menagerie of images and sounds. Slowly they move through the brain and begin to make sense. This may be the only time we listen to ourselves. Everybody dreams. Some don’t remember because they wake up at the wrong time or they dream at the wrong time. If you meditate, just listen and watch.
Dixit, J. (2007). Night school. Psychology Today, 40(6), 88-94.
Honchman, A., & Walch, A. (2004). Solve problems in your sleep. Health, 18(6).
Soldatos, C. R., & Paparrigopoulos, T. J. (2005). Sleep, physiology, and pathology: Pertinence to psychiatry. International Review of Psychiatry, 17(4), 213-228.
Wickens, A. (2005). Foundations of Biopsuchology (2 ed.). Essex, England: Pearson Eductaion Limited.
Wilkinson, M. (2006). The dreaming mind-brain: A Jungian perspective. Journal of Annalytical Psychology, 51(1), 43-59.
The Fallacy of immortality
In many of the metaphysical and religious writings, I’ve read, immortality appears to be an intense desire of humanity. What form of immortality is desired? Do people wish to live forever as a physical being, or as a ghostly image such as a spirit? Is it life they crave or something else? Perhaps it is the fear being forgotten, the idea that all they strove for during their lifetime was for naught.
Immortality is an unnatural condition. Longevity can be such that a creature appears to have lived forever, but they don’t. Some animals live as long as one hundred years or more, but eventually they expire. We, on the other hand, are not animals and benefit from decades of technological advances, prolonging our lives. An increased existence in our society can be problematic, let alone advantageous. Life insurance policies become void at the age of one hundred. Technology cannot replace the need for individuals to adapt to their environment, be able to establish new friendships, engage in an ever-changing culture, and even expand one’s worldview. Despite all of that, life is still extinguished like a flame when nothing is left to burn. Nothing continues forever, not even the ancient monoliths standing in mute witness. The great statues of Easter Island, the centuries old temples of Greece and Italy, even the massive pyramids of Egypt are not immune to the vacillation of creation. All are in a state of decay, despite numerous restorations. Decay is a natural occurrence for all things. This is the way of creation.
In order to create, nature requires raw materials. The process of death provides the building blocks of tomorrow (Steiner, 1972). Hence, the cycle of life includes the demise of all that has been created. If the process were interrupted, nature would reach a state of stagnation. Growth becomes suspended, and decay a mystery longed to be experienced.
One may say this process only applies to physical matter. If this were true, then the concept of ‘as above, so below’ would be false. We are beings of energy, and spirit is energy. Therefore, we do not die because energy knows of no beginning and no end, at least as we understand. Beginnings and endings do not preclude the dispersal and recombination of said energy. Energy exists in paper, gasoline, bodily tissue, and more. The Spiritualist believes the personality survives death, but this does not indicate immortality. The personality may survive the demise of the body. How long it remains intact is unclear. However, this murkiness does not deter the theories of mystics and religious counselors. Some suggest the personality remains intact until the next incarnation. Others propose the personality remains whole until it chooses another body, another life. My thoughts have always been that with each birth and death sparks of our personality combine with other sparks, creating a new personality. While the core may retain much of what is has become, it is not the same as before. In each case, the personality changes or is recreated, not restored.
Immortality is not possible, and perhaps is not even the goal. The greatest fear any person may face is being forgotten. The greatest fear a person may have is that all they have done has been for naught. Perhaps, the greatest fear is having been less than useless. The fear is not knowing. Fear is a great motivator. Fear may prompt the introduction of wishful thinking, such as becoming immortal.
While some may seek immortality, it is a vain pursuit. Just as the falsehood of all things come to an end. In both cases, endings provide beginnings. It’s not about our immortal soul, because the soul is part of the universe. It’s not about surviving death, because death is a means of transformation. It’s about not knowing what we become. Immortality is a lie we tell ourselves because we need purpose and purpose is motivated by tomorrow (Bernard, Mills, Swenson, & Walsh, 2005). We do not know what becomes of us after the change called death. We speculate and plan accordingly. If we know what happens, then we would not waste time seeking immortality. The real fear is not dying, but no longer having control. Knowing what occurs after the change called death imparts true immortality because we would remain in control.
Bernard, L. C., Mills, M., Swenson, L., & Walsh, R. P. (2005). An evolutionary theory of human motivation. Genetic, Social, & General Psychology Monographs, 131(2), 129.
Steiner, R. (1972). An Outline of Occult Science. Anthroposophic Press, Inc.
Beyond the Change Called Death
I often find inspiration in what I read. Sometimes the material sparks inquisitiveness, connections are made, and sometimes I need to update information. In this particular instance, I was reading Andrew Jackson Davis, The Great Harmonia; Being a Philosophical Revelation of the Natural, Spiritual, and Celestial Universe. The section I am drawing from deals with the immortality of the spirit. Within Spiritualism, the spirit is also considered the personality of the individual and that it remains intact after the change called death, which may or may not be true. Davis addresses a question put forth by an admirer. The admirer is not convinced of the soul’s immortality, specifically the intellectual faculties and memories remaining intact. I too am curious about this concept, particularly after having to investigate a church making connections with followers of John of God, which is popular in Brazil.
Joao de Teixeira de Faria, better known as John of God is a full trance medium (one who allows possession by a spirit(s)). Through him, doctors and surgeons (up to 33 entities) perform healings. The principal spirit is St. Ignatius of Loyola (Dom Inacio de Loyola, 1491-1556) founder of the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits (Unknown, 2009-2015). Another chief spirit is identified as Dr. Augusto de Almeida. The entity claims to have been a doctor in a previous incarnation. No further information is provided nor can be found through a cursory search of the internet. Dr. Oswaldo Cruz (1872-1917), unlike the other entities was well known. Dr. Cruz was a bacteriologist who became director of the Federal Seropathy Institute, and later appointed Director-General of Public Health (Unknown, Oswaldo Cruz, Unknown). He eliminated yellow fever in Brazil through changing sanitation practices and took this to other parts of South America. With the exception of St. Ignatius, the spirit entities walked the earth during the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries. The medical skills they demonstrate are appropriate to that era.
In 2009, I was a member of the board of a Spiritualist organization. An emergency meeting was called on account of a quarterly gathering would be taking place at the church in question. We had to determine if the leaders had broken any of the by-laws of the organization. After the meeting, a board member questioned me about the report. Trance mediumship is an accepted demonstration of spirit influence, though it is not recommended. Her question dealt with the methodology of Faria’s healings, which include making incisions upon those asking for healing. Individuals are given a choice between spiritual (psychic) operations or physical operations (Amey, No Date). Physical operations consist of making incisions, which is performed without anesthesia or antiseptic (Cumming, 2001).
After explaining that he does this while in a trance and other spirits perform the operations through him, she asked another question. Why, she asked, didn’t they grow? The belief in Spiritualism is that a person retains their identity after death and continues to grow. Why, indeed had these spirits not continued to expand in their respective fields?
Several years later, I stumbled upon an answer from one of Spiritualism’s pioneers. “These are no inferences, no conclusions based upon hypothetical reasons, but they are the universal testimonies and absolute demonstrations of creation – indeed, they are simply Nature’s own instructions (Davis, 1851), p. 241, par. 1).” The universal testimonies, I assume, are pieces of information provided by spirit in much the same way as people provide testimonials for services. The Harmonia is a work dictated by spirit while Davis was under hypnosis.
Davis goes on to explain the process of human creation as beginning with the body, which forms the brain, which gives shape to the mind. This is contrary to what we know now. Creation is top down process. If we were to apply this to Davis’ theory, it would be the mind creating the body. Matter is merely the compression of energy fields giving them shape. Energy provides cohesion for matter as a means of retaining its shape (Lipton & Bhaerman, 2009). Rudolf Steiner also suggests an incorporeal existence prior to a physical existence (Steiner, 1972). Cosmologists suggest matter gives space-time form and space-time moves matter (Bousso & Polchinski, 2004). I do not dismiss validity of Davis’ writing as it is relevant to the period. What I question is the idea of the supremacy of spirit.
A belief exists that the spirit of an individual continues to grow, and that there are schools in the spirit realm for them to attend. Unfortunately, beliefs are often generated through preconceptions (Myers, 2008). Religion is riddled with beliefs regarding what happens when we die. Such beliefs range from transitioning to heaven or hell to a dispersal of energy to reincarnation, with few having any real basis to them. Reincarnation, at least has some form of evidence outside of conjecture to support it (Stevenson, 1997). With the exception of energy dispersal, the rest of the information is provided through divine beings and spirit entities.
Davis explains it this way. “The passage from this sphere into the next is no more a change to the individual than a journey from America to England, excepting the almost complete emancipation consequent upon the change, from rudimental misdirection and earthly imperfections (Davis, 1851) p. 241; par. 2)).” Clear indications of a lack of significant personal growth are indicated. An almost complete separation from misdirection due to alleged earthly imperfections – being human, meaning we are subject to our own ignorance. Davis goes on to say the physical change called death imparts no significant alteration to the personality. At long last, answer to the board member’s question; even if it is several years late. Why did the spirit doctors working with Faria fail to progress any further? If the person is not in the habit of taking it upon themselves to grow – expand mentally, emotionally, or even spiritually, the person is most likely not going to experience any progressions in the sphere of spirit life. However, given Dr. Cruz’s reputation as a leader of innovation, he should have continued his growth. His failure to progress lends doubts to the idea of progression as a spirit being, unless, the entity falsely identified itself, or possesses and egocentric personality.
The spirit entities working through Faria insist upon making incisions because it is what they knew. “The experience, character, and progress of an individual in this life is recorded upon, and will be, to a modified extent, manifested by, that individual in the life to come (Davis, 1851) p. 241; par 1)).” Is this further indication of a person’s ability to continue their growth after expiration or an allusion to reincarnation? The latter is a topic previously covered. If it is not in the nature of a person to inquire or exercise their intellect while serving the physical world, they will probably not do so in the spiritual realm. Perhaps we should take heed of Andrew Jackson Davis’ words. “Duty demands serious analysis and investigation of all conspicuous subjects.” Life is a conspicuous subject and the philosophies meant to provide comfort are calling upon to investigate.
Amey, E. (No Date). Healings by John of God. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from Healing Brazil: http://www.johnofgod-brasil.com/Healing/
Bousso, R., & Polchinski, J. (2004). The string theory landscape. Scientific American, 291(3), 78-87. Retrieved June 10, 2008 from Academic Search Premier database.
Cumming, H. (2001). John of God. Retrieved January 10, 2016, from HealingQuests.com: http://www.healingquests.com/
Davis, A. J. (1851). The Philosophy of Immortality. In The Great Harmonia; Being a Philosophical Revelation of the Natural, Spiritual, and Celestial Universe (Vol. 2, p. 233). Boston: Benjamin B. Mussey & Co. Retrieved January 10, 2016, from https://books.google.com/books/reader?id=a_A3AAAAYAAJ&num=13&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&pg=GBS.PA233
Golog, N. (no date). Oswaldo Cruz. Retrieved from SJSU Virtual Museum: http://www.sjsu.edu/depts/Museum/aamenu.html
Lipton, B., & Bhaerman, S. (2009). Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (and a way to get there from here). New York: Hayhouse.
Myers, D. (2008). Social beliefs and judgments. In Social Psychology (p. 76). New York: McGraw Hill.
Steiner, R. (1972). Outline of Occult Science. Anthroposophic Press, Inc.
Stevenson, I. (1997). Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Unknown. (2009-2015). St. Ignatius Loyola. Retrieved January 10, 2016, from Ignatian Spirituality: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-voices/st-ignatius-loyola
Unknown. (Unknown). Oswaldo Cruz. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from Fiocruz: portal.fiocruz.br/en/content/oswaldo-cruz-0
All experiences are good. This does not mean I enjoy watching others experience theirs. By theirs, I mean their rough patches. A short time ago, a friend had to be rushed to the hospital for some poor choices. She had become overwhelmed by current circumstances. She was striking out on her own and learning about the inhabitants of the world – inhabitants who are not always nice. I could say she is young, but age has nothing to do with what happened. Experience does. While I consider my life relatively satisfying, it was not always the case. I too have experienced overwhelming circumstances and have done things not entirely beneficial, but I survived them and I am confident she will too.
On our journey, we come to cruxes, which amount to turning points in our lives. One such event occurred around 2000. The crux occurred during a team-building event sponsored by the company I worked for.
While several events led to enlightening experiences, the event I want to talk about was called ‘The Wall.’ The Wall is a manufactured wall about the length of a gymnasium. Like all opportunities, there are the customary easy, difficult, and near impossible choices. Ours was where to climb. Our facilitator instructed us on the use of safety ropes, and then told us to choose a portion of wall and begin climbing. The two extreme ends were the narrower of the three, with the difficult having the most climbers. Being the person I am – always challenging myself – I selected the one I was the most unprepared for. This particular section was more like an outcropping of fiberglass rock. Barely six feet into the climb, I was forced to retreat, and I failed at that, dropping the last two feet or so.
Immediately upon my failure, the facilitator rushed to my side, not to inquire about my wellbeing, but to send me to the opposite end. I stood at the foot of what is best described as a gentle hill – the kiddies’ end of the wall. Without preamble, I embarked upon my climb, which amounted to stair climbing. At the top, I sat and contemplated what I had just learned. A flaw in my decision process had been brought to my attention. The continuous struggles I experienced were due to my choices. I was responsible for the torturous path I had travelled and responsible for in the future. From that point, a conscious effort was made not to repeat those floundering mishaps. However, like you, more challenges awaited.
When we chose to alter the course of our lives, we must deal with the wake behind us. Events are merely interactions of energy, in our case they are the interactions of our energy upon the environment and upon others. That energy is part of us, in much the same way as the results of this article are a part of me. In the case of past events, the energy from our wakes will find us because it is part of us. Some events will bring beneficial consequences, while others….well you know what I mean. As those other events find their way back, we must experience them, and change their frequency so they will carry beneficial events back. It took me several years to work out those detrimental results.
The lesson being shared is, no matter when you decide to make changes in your life, the effects will take some time to be felt. While today, my life is very satisfying, it did not happen overnight – not even within a year. Perhaps there are still bits of a wake laid so many years ago that have yet to return. When they do, I shall absorb them, re-shape them, and release them into the stream. In the case of those who are making changes in the course of their life, don’t give up. Another insight gained was that someone is always waiting to support you. You are not alone. Do not isolate yourself. Surround yourself with good deeds, good people, and ride the leading edge of the turbulence. When you come out on the other side, you will look back and say, ‘that wasn’t so hard after all, maybe even a little fun.’
The focus of Spiritualism today is on spirit phenomena. This is evident in the television series The Medium and Ghost Whisperer and even in the ghost series that fill the cable television. The focus of spirit phenomena is the way Spiritualist churches build their memberships, through spirit messages and readings. The Spiritist side of Spiritualism is based upon what is called the Survivalist theory. Michael Sudduth writes, “Survival arguments postulate surviving persons to explain the observable phenomena. So, they presuppose that surviving persons causally interact with living persons and the physical world at some level. (Sudduth, 2009)” Think about what this implies. For mediums to give messages, they assume that everyone who dies has a strong desire to communicate with the living. So, when I die, mediums just assume that I will want to hurry back and tell everyone that I am okay.
Declaration four of the Declarations of Principles states:
We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death.
Now, I would like to put forth a problem to the assumption of the Spiritualist medium. If, Uncle Lee keeps to himself and avoids talking to others, will he start talking to everybody after he dies?
In the world today, or any other day, we strive to learn to treat people with dignity, kindness, and respect without judgment. We try to live up to not only our parent’s expectations, but also everyone else’s and sometimes our own. Do we extend the same courtesy to our family and friends who are now in sprit? Do we even extend the same courtesy to God?
In order to prove that the mind survives death, we assume that when people die, they want to continue their life on this plane, even on this planet. Sudduth explains that the survivalist theory is dependent on the interactions of the spirit. (Sudduth, 2009) He also includes the possibility that spirits have no desire to interact with the earth plane. This is more than most Spiritualist allow.
Not all mediums make this assumption. Recall declaration number four, the personality survives death. If we adopt this as being true, then why would we expect them to be our beck and call. Most of these people were not that involved in our lives when they were on this plane, why should they suddenly take an interest in our lives now? Why do Spiritualists know that the personality continues? A good medium will bring proof of the identity of the spirit bringing the message.
Mediumship compares the medium to a telephone. The sitter makes the call. The medium directs the call. The spirit receives the call. With this in mind, did Aunt Sue always answer the phone? Well, no, she did not. Aunt Sue had other things to do besides waiting for you to call. Of course, when she got the answering machine, she may have screened her calls. What if a bond existed between the two of you, how would this affect you? Sometimes she would call when you were thinking about her, or perhaps you would call when she was thinking about you. This bond still exists and when the need arises, Aunt Sue will be there to take the call. The idea is that if we were to assume that a person would act differently after death than before death, we be oblivious to our loved one’s needs.
When a medium gives a message, or asks a spirit a question for you, the medium is supposed to find out whom you are talking with. The medium does this by telling you something about the spirit when the spirit walked the earth. Generally, the spirit will indicate a condition, he or she had when he or she was alive. Sometimes, the medium will be able to hear the spirit’s name, and there may be another means to identify who is being consulted. Unfortunately, I have witnessed many lazy mediums that do not bother to identify whom the loved one is. Mediums such as these are being discourteous to you and the spirit. They do not realize that they may be talking to any spirit that feels like chatting.
Imagine yourself standing in line at the customer service desk waiting for a clerk. When the clerk arrives, you tell the clerk you are here to make an exchange. The clerk takes the package you are exchanging and asks you what would you like? You tell the clerk, the clerk hands you a package, and you leave. When you open the package, you discover that the clerk gave you something else. The same is true with mediums who feel they do not need to identify who the spirit is. They do not care.
Let us consider another assumption made about those who die. Rev. Dan Kivel used to quote Rev. Lynette May, “Just because they’re dead, don’t make them smart.” This is true. Spiritualism also teaches that a person continues to grow after leaving this plane. Some believe that after a person passes into life’s other room, he becomes perfect and knows everything. This is not entirely true. As a spirit, the person is able to see events from a different perspective. There are other forces at work. Some of these forces are pulling obstacles into your path and other forces are pushing them away. As a spirit, these people are able to see a possible future.
If we continue to grow after death, then how is Aunt Sue able to help me if she is busy? Some teach that spirit has no sense of time. Well, if this were true I would not be able to tell you that an opportunity may manifest in two to three weeks. If a spirit is able to act in this dimension, one can assume that spirit is also aware of the limitations that exist and may be bound to some of those limitations. Remember that bond that exists between you and Aunt Sue, this bond is what notifies her that you need her. Just as she stopped doing what she was doing on this plane, she stops doing what she is doing in the spirit realm. She is able to look at what you have been doing, and can glimpse what may result by your actions. Opportunities like these help her to grow. I am sure there are other lessons for her and us to learn, lessons that I cannot even dream of right now. However, there is one other thing I need to mention. The reason why people assume that spirit does not know time is because a spirit can exist in two places at once. That would take some time to explain.
One other issue I would like to discuss. I have been talking about the idea that when a person dies, that person has the same personality as before. When we greet another, generally we stand up to shake his or her hand. When I attend Spiritualist churches, I do not see very many people rising from their seat to greet the messenger. When our loved ones do arrive and bring us a message, we should at least be thankful. Most of us lounge in our seat and give a barely perceptible nod. When a visitor arrives at your doorstep, do you yell from whatever room you are in and tell whomever to ‘just come in?’ No, you treat them with some measure of respect. You should treat spirit with some respect as well. Just because a loved one is dead, is no reason for you or the medium to be rude.
Remember, the survivalist theory is based on observed spirit phenomena. This assumes that a person who has passed on has a desire to continue to interact with you and others on the earth. The possibility that the person does not wish to contact you exists. There is also the possibility that a loved one is trying to communicate with you, but the medium does not care who you are communicating with.
Morita, S. J. (1995). Modern Spiritualism and reform in America. University of Oregon , Retrieved August 1, 2006 from ProQuest database.
Sudduth, M. (2009). Super-psi and the survivalist interpretation of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration , 23 (2), 167-193.
Sometime in 2002, I had approached the president of the Independent Spiritualist Association about reincarnation. The word reincarnation, had become a dirty word officially and a bit of controversy unofficially. You see, reincarnation was a discouraged teaching in Spiritualism. The reason for the discouragement of this aspect of continued life was that there was no scientific support. Apparently, the group has been so engrossed in table tipping, message work, and other spirit phenomena that none of them has bothered to do any real research. A few years ago, reincarnation was the topic of one of the Independent Spiritualist Association’s educational events. The speaker presented information published by Hereward Carrington. Carrington wrote in his book Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them that as of yet, there was no scientific evidence. He also based his conclusions on the fact that no one could remember a previous life (Carrington, 1920). That was over 80 years ago. You may be wondering just what the theory of continued life is.
The theory is simple. If one were to avail themselves of the Declarations of Principles, one would find that the theory lies hidden within. I wonder if any of the Spiritualists are aware of that. The summarized version states that living within the spiritual and physical laws is an expression of life. When a person passes on, the personality of that person survives death and can communicate with the living. This communication with the so-called dead is proof that human kind survives death. There is more, but this is sufficient. Therefore, you live on earth, or in this plane; you die and continue to live in the other plane.
Spiritualists are not the only ones with a theory of continued life. Within the realm of science, there is the survivalist hypothesis, which “asserts the continued postmortem existence of a formerly living agent (Sudduth, 2009).” Observable evidence, such as table tipping, message work, other spirit phenomena supports the survivalist hypothesis. Fantastic, but does this mean that after I die the only thing left for me to do is to talk to the living? No, there has to be something more than that. Science also suggests that something is pulling us forward in our development. Therefore, the answer is no, and the theory of continued life is incomplete.
While real evidence of past-life regression is questionable, reincarnation is not. I know some of you would like to argue the point, but this is not the place or the topic. Psychologist Ian Stevenson of Canada has developed criteria that support the age-old teaching of reincarnation. He uses odd-looking birthmarks as guideposts. The birthmarks are in the shape of wounds that may have been fatal, or marks that people have placed on the body after death. When these odd birthmarks are added to unexplained behaviors in children below the age 10, Stevenson asks questions and looks for answers. What he has found does not demonstrate a past-life regression, but a past life remembrance. Many adults claim to remember past lives, but the likelihood of a child boasting of these claims is slim. What is it that Christ said? An old man will ask a babe what heaven is like (Gaffeny, 2004).
This is what many call fringe science. This has nothing to do the TV show. Statistical support for reincarnation on a scientific level exists. The fact that the scientific community has problems accepting the information makes it fringe science. Science is not actually afraid of exploring religious based phenomena. The difficulty lies on obtaining the funding to investigate the phenomena. This is why science knows very little about religious and psychic phenomena. Do not blame the scientists; blame the foundations that provide the funding.
Reincarnation is a tricky subject to discuss because many do not understand it. I do not understand it, but I do recognize its value. If spirit communication is the foundation of continued life, then the spirit realm would be the transition point. This would mean that reincarnation is the summarization of continued life.
I would like to share a story with you. Part of the application process of becoming an Associate Minister with the Independent Spiritualist Association is an interview with the board of trustees. As part of my interview, the president at that time, in an accusatory tone, demanded to know if I was going to continue to teach reincarnation from the platform. At that time, no one discussed reincarnation openly, much less taught it. As astounding as the accusation was, my reply, though calmly given was just as astounding. There is a verse in Matthew, and probably in Luke as well, that describes Christ teaching in the temple. He reads aloud that Elijah returns to make the way clear for the Messiah. After announcing that the prophecy has been fulfilled, he closes the book. This could very well support reincarnation, but the Independent Spiritualist Association did not believe in reincarnation. Keep in mind that Elijah lived before Isaiah wrote the prophecy, and Isaiah lived before Christ. How would you explain this?
Some ministers are of the opinion that the Bible has nothing written in it about reincarnation. They talk about the conundrum of those that asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah, and he tells them no. Apparently, they were unfamiliar with the workings of reincarnation. John was too old to have remembered. If they knew that he might have known when he was a child, would they have asked? More than likely not. Nevertheless, Christ announced that Elijah had been there and gone. If you pay close attention, and here is where many get it wrong, Elijah, along with Moses speaks with Christ just before his apprehension. This took place after the execution of John.
Anyway, what you need to pay attention to, is that the Hindus taught reincarnation, the Gnostics taught reincarnation, and now science has leant its support for reincarnation. The theory of continued life is incomplete without reincarnation. According to Spiritualism’s edicts, Spiritualism is a science, reincarnation has the needed requirement to be part of the theory and complete the cycle. If this does not convince any of them, think of it like this; after spending some time on earth, are we to just hang out in the spirit realm forever? Stevenson tells of an organizing principle within the process of reincarnation. This tells me that reincarnation is part of the overall plan.
Carrington, H. (1920). Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co.
Gaffeny, M. (2004). The Gnostic Secrets of the Naassense: The Initiatory Teachings ofs the Last Supper. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.
Sudduth, M. (2009). Super-psi and the survivalist interpretation of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration , 23 (2), 167-193.
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