SCIENCE and THE AFTERLIFE

April [22] 2009

A Review by Dr. Art Rosengarten based on a Lecture by Paranormal Researcher, Dr. Julie Beischel

San Diego, March 20, 2009

Recently I was invited to review a lecture by Dr. Julie Beischel, a premier investigator in the fields of survival of consciousness and mediumship research.  Dr. Beischel initially requested a show of hands in the audience of those who believed that consciousness survives death, and not surprisingly, 90% of the attendees raised their hands though I was not among them. This owing to my agnosticism on the topic, despite a first impulse to lift my own hand to the auditorium’s rafters.

“Survival after death,” reported Dr. Beischel, “has a body of data at least one hundred years old.” She described three established types of after-life research, namely: 1). proof-focused (validity studies); 2). process-focused (the phenomenology of the medium herself); and 3). applied (field work). Beischel’s approach was clearly proof-focused. She is well-schooled in laboratory science having earned her doctorate in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Arizona—an impressive prelude to her present career as researcher/bridge-maker to the other side.

According to Beischel, researchers generally agree that “the perception is real” (regarding contact with the dead), though what actually is occuring in such cases is less conclusive. The implication here was curious and interesting, I thought, particularly as irrefutable scientific proof of an afterlife and observable communication with “discarnate” entities must qualify as a true “gold ticket” in the annals of scientific research, on a par with evidential proof of alien contact, the cure and eradication of cancer, or even an affordable treatment for male-pattern baldness that actually worked. Moving from perception to causation in this controversial territory is like moving from the belief in faeries to having one sing with the band at your daughter’s wedding.

Dr. Beishal, however, reviewed her fairly rigorous eight-step process at The Windbridge Institute to screen and train competent mediums as subjects (often on the phone) for controlled experiments. In these both mental mediums and “trance mediums” (who remain dissociated during transmissions) are utilized. Training includes grief counseling skills to help mediums better relate to their bereaved “sitters” during contact sessions. Curiously, the words “ghost,” “apparition,” or “spirit”  are not used in this vocabulary, and Beischel freely admits a double-edged sword of pop culture fascination with mediums, spirit possession, ghost hunters, and so forth, which, at once, trivializes her research as a kind of thrill-ride for hormonally-ravaged teenagers, but also raises public awareness for much-needed funding in this universally relevant area.

I found especially interesting Dr. Beischel’s discussion of the three most likely mechanisms that researchers today best use to explain ‘anomalous information receptions’ (A.I.R.), namely: 1). consciousness survives death. 2). a super psi effect is triggered in such cases (in which case, what’s actually occurring is psi, not survival). 3). A ‘psychic reservoir’ or universal data bank (ala the Akashic records, etc.) is tapped.

The first option feels circular to me, and not mutually exclusive of the others. Receptions occur “because consciousness survives” seems like saying “we float in the water because the ocean is wet.” There must be a second half to this explanation. Option 2–the super psi effect theory–seems to be the confounding factor that ambiguously follows this work to its conclusion (or stalemate) without ever being ruled out, or adequately control for. What may appear like valid contact between medium and discarnate may actually be some telepathic snatching up of the sitter’s memories (with, or without, anyone realizing it). In that case, the after-life has not been unwrapped so much as hijacked by super-psychics!

Option 3, however, the ‘psychic reservoir hypothesis’, despite its Aquarian acoustic, resonates most with my own sympathies as a Jungian psychologist and tarot expert. I can easily visualize The High Priestess channeling subtle, subliminal, collective memories accessed from her deeply intuitive predisposition. Option 3 also suggests a transpersonal and innate level of “absolute knowledge” (Jung) within the human personality that under the right conditions may arise synchronistically in the space between medium, sitter, (and possibly discarnate as well).

This connectedness, however, is “acausal” in nature, i.e. emitting no energy exchange between senders and receivers (the holy mantra of synchronicity theorists!). Like in divination procedures with tarot or I Ching, an intuitive intelligence or “awareness” seems simply to open up (or is recognized as having always been there) under the proper conditions. Whereas super psi posits that something is happening here (albeit subtle)— an energy is exchanged in the process (and sought after for measurement by scientists). Thus the causal v. acausal sourcing question remains a familiar point of divergence between parapsychologists and Jungians.  In any event, Dr. Beischel admitted without hesitation that the question itself remains open.

The psychology of abundance seems another relevant piece to the life-after-death puzzle. Unlimited amounts of anything—cash, phone minutes, refills, or lifetimes—make sudden ceasing to be seem so less pressured and irredeemable. Could survivability, and its implied endlessness, have such a paradoxical effect? Might surviving into the afterlife take some of the umph out of “now or never?” Beischel reports that grief-stricken family members feel better after consulting a medium than after consulting a mental health worker. (Why am I not surprised?).

Could this artifact be merely some opiate effect in the service of denial? Or could something far less predictable be going on here– the foreshadowing of a vast paradigm shift with respect to consciousness surviving after death. As Dr. Julie Beischel noted at the end, perhaps the greatest effect of her findings for the medical community is simply that: “Death is then viewed more as a transition, than a failure.” Perhaps this be the larger hypothesis that we are looking for?

Art Rosengarten

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Dr. Art Rosengarten is a Jungian psychologist in Encinitas, California, Director of Moonlight Counseling, author of Tarot and Psychology: Spectrums of Possibility (2000), and creator of Tarot of the Nine Paths: Advanced Tarot for the Spiritual Traveler (Paragon, 2009).  As a researcher, he wrote the first scientific study of tarot divination for his doctoral dissertation at the California Institute Of Integral Studies (1985) and has since researched domestic violence, political and historical events, as well as nondual inquiry and various Buddhist practices through the synchronisitic lens of tarot readings.

Dr. Rosengarten is owner/moderator of tarotpsych: an online discussion group for tarot experimentation and community. His articles, services, books and TNP deck can be found (and ordered below) on this website.

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