Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why Not Something Meaningful?

Over years now, time and time again, I’ve noted reading the mediumistic literature that the departed, communicating through a medium, never have anything really meaningful to say. We hear greetings and very short answers—never what, written down, might spell a complex sentence with clauses, never mind anything of paragraph length. Those who seek out mediums, of course, are people who want contact with those they’ve loved and lost, and they appear satisfied. They recognize voices or intonations. But if I were attending a séance (never have), I’d want to know what is over there, and I’d be wanting to hear something novel, anything novel at all.

Now this recurred to me because fellow-blogger, The Zennist, put up a pointer the other day to a film concerning the Scole Experiment (link), a 1990s account of various experiences of contact with the beyond. I watched a bit of that film and, doing so, and the thought came once again. One-word answers to questions. The séances are well-enough recorded so that one almost hears the strain and the effort in the voices from beyond that answer the questions. After I stopped the film, an association sprang up in my mind. These conversations sounded a lot like dialogs between two people one of whom does not speak the language very well. I’ve had that experience three times in my life—learning German, French, and English. You understand the question—because understanding comes before speech—but you struggle mightily to answer, because you lack the words.

Now it occurred to me that in spiritualistic encounters some analog to language might be at work. The spirit is striving to articulate speech either by using the medium’s vocal apparatus or trying to cause air to vibrate in imitation of spoken sound. This may be extraordinarily difficult for a person no longer directly linked to a physical body. Thus what does come out is the absolute minimum. Quite a few near-death experience (NDE) reports contain descriptions of attempts by those having NDEs to communicate—by touch or voice—with those they see around them, usually in a hospital setting. They absolutely fail. Not surprisingly, therefore, those who try to contact the dead reduce physical stimuli to a minimum—dark rooms, silence, concentration, etc. The skeptics interpret this as deliberate attempts to set up deceptions; indeed such conditions favor magicians and tricksters too; but they may be the minimum conditions for making any effective contact—not least the presence of a person who is already sensitive.

The difficulties involved, and the fact that the best that spirits can do is convey a small emotion and an indication that they are still there, convinced me long ago that the mediumistic enterprise is a fringe activity—and probably on both sides. As proof of the beyond these arcane sessions will never be persuasive for unbelievers. Systematic thought about our human condition will produce the right answer; and data on NDEs, if more data are needed, provide much better ancillary proof.

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