Is there good evidence for life after death in the form of communication from those who have passed before us?
The original title of this article was going to be "Can We Talk to the Dead?" But then I thought, Well, of course - we can talk to the dead all we want. The real questions are whether they can hear us and respond.
People have always wanted to communicate with the dead. We miss the company and the relationships we had with them when they were alive. There are always things that remain to be said, and we long to reach out to them at least one more time. We want to know that they're okay wherever they are; that they are happy and no longer burdened by the trials of earthly life.
Also, if we can communicate with the dead, it affirms to us that there really is an existence "somewhere" after this life.
So, yes, we can reach out to those who have passed, but can they talk back? We have developed various methods and rituals in hopes of making two-way contact - most recently, using several technology-based methods. But are they effective? We seem to be getting responses... but can they be trusted? Are they truly responses from the dead?
Let's review the most common methods that many assume are channels through which the dead communicate.
SÉANCES - TRANCE MEDIUMS
Séances in which a small group of people gather in a darkened room around a table have been practiced at least since the 18th century. They were most popular from the mid-19th century into the early 20th century. They were usually led by trance mediums who claimed to be able to channel the spirits of the dead and impart messages to the living participants.
These séances were rife with fraud and gimmickry, although a few, such as Leonora Piper, were closely investigated by psychic research organizations and thought by many to be "genuine."
Today's version of the medium can be seen in such celebrities as John Edward and James Van Praagh, except that they forego the darkened room and table, claiming to be able to "hear" the voices of the dead who provide usually trite messages to living family members in the audience.
The problem with all of these mediums is that there is no way to prove that the messages they are relaying really are from the deceased. They can pretty much say whatever they want, claim it is from a dead person, and... well, who can prove that it's not?
Yes, Edward and Van Praagh occasionally seem to get some remarkable "hits," but we've seen talented mentalists - who claim no psychic powers - do equally astonishing tricks. And the messages they give are not very convincing that they come from a person who has died and now exists on some otherworldly plane. We get usual "he is watching over you" or "she's happier now and out of pain," etc., but no real details on what the afterlife is like - no information that would convince us absolutely.
Ouija boards were developed as a kind of home board game version of the séance. It simplifies the practice, requiring only two people and a planchette pointer and lettered board that substitutes for the medium.
While there is a lot of fundamentalist paranoia surrounding the Ouija board, with claims that they are portals to evil and controlled by demons, most users' experiences are completely harmless, even dull. The "spirits" that come through the board often claim to be dead people, and the shock of that claim is enough to scare the bejeebers out of every teenage girl, but again there is no way to verify that claim.
On occasion, information comes through the board, according to some stories, that seems to be outside the knowledge of the participants. First of all, these are stories of people's experiences - sometimes second- or even third-hand accounts - which themselves need to be verified. And if verified, must we then assume that the information is coming from "the other side"? Once again, we cannot prove that it isn't, but another possibility is that the information is coming through psychic means, in the same way that remote viewing obtains information. Communication from the dead is not the only possibility.
AUTOMATIC WRITING, CHANNELING
There are several cases - some of them remarkable - of people who have written books, music, and messages that they believe are channeled from the dead: Jane Roberts and her series of Seth books; J.Z. Knight who channels the 30,000-year-old Ramtha; Pearl Curran who channeled Patience Worth to write notable books; Rosemary Brown who wrote music she said came from Franz Liszt; Helen Schucman who claimed Jesus Christ wrote A Course in Miracles through her.
Are these artistic works proof of the afterlife? Or are they the products of talented people who are able to tap the deep well of creativity in their own subconscious?
Next page: EVP, NDEs, and Apparitions