Woo-woo questions

Moonlight

I am an open-minded skeptic. The afterlife sounds magnificent, but you know what they say about things that sound too good to be true. I am fairly new to reading books and watching videos by and about mediums. Some of them seem silly and unbelievable; some of them are compelling and inspiring.

The more knowledge that I gain, the more questions that I have. I like to go beyond the elementary, Watson. I want answers more satisfying than superficial one-liners and spiritual small talk. Some of what I have seen convinces me that we as a society should look more carefully into the implications of survival of consciousness.

I decided that for my own exploration I would make a list of questions that I would like to see answered or topics more fully addressed. One goal is to separate “entertainment” from more substantial, sophisticated works. Another is to brainstorm areas that I am interested in pursuing in my afterlife research.

While some current practices among mediums seem strange or even distressing to me, the ultimate purpose of my questions is to discover the truth. I deeply desire healing for this planet.

UPDATE NOTE: In my personal reality, “woo-woo” is a fun term, a term of endearment. It represents to me lighting the fire for spiritual knowledge. I understand that for many, “woo-woo” is a term of derision used to scoff at metaphysical studies. So be if for them; I am not changing my love of woo-woo because others want to spoil the party. Woo-hoo for woo-woo!

QUESTIONS AND TOPICS

Authenticity. In his book The Afterlife Experiments, Gary Schwartz explained how he designed experiments anticipating how skeptics might attack those experiments. If he could plug the gaps in any anticipated criticisms of his research methods, he would be doing more complete research. Similarly, I would like to see a medium explain how s/he validates the authenticity of the messages received. The better that a medium explains the mediumship process, the more seriously I take it. Ultimately, a medium is a window into a dimension beyond normal perception, and that excites me.

Afterlife researcher. How do self-proclaimed afterlife researchers validate their credentials? What kind of training do they have? (This is particularly noteworthy for cases where the term afterlife researcher is used to perpetuate a fraud by claiming that someone fully vetted a medium when no one actually did.) Similarly, self-proclaimed skeptics should also be required to put forth their qualifications. Many are highly skilled at arguing, nay-saying, and performing on talk shows, but do they even conduct research? Skepticism is often just show business.

Research. I would like to hear from mediums about the kind of research they would like to see to validate what they do. Trance-channel mediums, in turn, could channel about the best ways to conduct afterlife research as suggested from the other side. Conversations with afterlife researchers now in spirit would be especially valuable.

Methods. How does mediumship work? What can and can’t mediums do? Some mediums, for example, appear to have normal-sounding conversations with spirit, but then falter with names or specifics details on specific questions. What is so hard about getting names answering direct questions if they can hear general answers? How does spirit or a medium explain this? (Skeptics explain it as fraud!) Of course, each medium will have a different skill and talent set, but some general expectations of what’s possible would be valuable for people considering a reading from a medium. (YouTube videos, for instance, show both the insipid and the intriguing.)

Medium’s preparation. Some mediums say that they meditate on a sitter to open the channel before the session begins. This sounds special. However, this does not seem to be necessary during group readings. Are there behind-the-scenes preparations that a medium doing public channeling goes through?

For entertainment purposes only. I wonder how we clients would feel about doctors and lawyers if a consultancy contract with them read “for entertainment purposes only.” Mediums and psychics often use disclaimers like this. Mediums who promote themselves on talk shows sometimes find their gifts played for laughs, particularly by comedy-minded hosts. If we are to take afterlife research and mediumship seriously, a paradigm shift seems needed. If mediums represent the idea that spirit does not die, then let’s get beyond the woo-woo party entertainment phase and move into treating it appropriately for serious afterlife research. (Yes, there is room for fun, but let’s respect the process of communicating with other dimensions.)

Dead Celebrities. Interviews with celebrities and famous historical figures usually suffer from lack of evidence. They sometimes yield good stories, sunbursts of wisdom, and entertainment value, but could not be considered authentic communication from spirit without verifiable evidence. I see great value in interviews with dead historical figures if intelligent, worthwhile questions were asked. Even without an airtight authentication of an identity, spiritually astute questioning of the entity could be enlightening if the conversation revealed a true depth of insight about a person, an era, or the cosmos.

Respectful communication. Some mediums suggest that recognizable icons from history (like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Jesus, etc.) are eager to help humanity progress. These entities mean serious business. However, other mediums treat historical figures as novelty attractions for show business—wouldn’t it be fun to see what Marilyn Monroe is up to today? The conversations are casual; the questions are often silly and trite like something a gossip magazine would ask. If spirits truly wish to help evolve the planet, one wonders why they would tolerate and participate in circus-like videos, seminars, and marketing schemes. If these entities really wish to save humanity, shouldn’t they insist on a more respectful, serious-minded venue?

Rules of disclosure. Humans seeks to know answers to mysteries, and the departed are seen as having answers. However, are there rules about what information spirits can and cannot share with us? Easy examples would be all the common conspiracy theories. Was 9/11 an inside job? Who killed JFK? Are governments hiding ET encounters and technology? In general, what rules of disclosure apply to channeling? Is some information forbidden to pass along to humans? Who controls disclosure? What’s allowed and what’s forbidden? Why do so many interviews with historical characters dodge the direct, obvious questions?

The whole truth. Can spirits lie if you ask them a direct question? For example, could a spirit guide give you false information if s/he is guiding you to a crisis that was a soul contract? Do spirits have any motivation to lie? (Are they still human in that regard?) Could one spirit impersonate another one by lying about his/her true identity? When and how does dishonesty become untenable in spirit life?

One-way communication. Some mediums say readings are one-way. That is, the dead tell us things that they want to tell us, but it is not a two-way conversation. Then other channelers appear open for questions, such as Esther of Abraham-Hicks. Spirits/mediums who control or inhibit information seem similar to governments that censor and fill the media with controlled propaganda.

Buying answers. Some mediums and hypnotherapists talk about pre-incarnation life planning. We incarnate with amnesia about these life plans. But then guess what, we can go pay a medium or undergo an expensive past life regression, and suddenly we get access to all this secret information! While it can be argued that this is how free enterprise works in the physical world, buying answers seems to favor the rich. If amnesia serves a purpose, why does this work-around exist?

Negativity excuse. Mediums sometimes say that a sitter’s disbelief in a phenomenon creates a block to it. Mediums sometimes blame sitters for negative energy that squelches messages from coming through. This sure sounds like an easy fall-back position for a fraudulent medium to take to control a sitter who feels s/he is not being read accurately. What is the metaphysical truth about this, especially from a willing, open-minded sitter? How can a person be a healthy skeptic and open at the same time?

Compensation. Is a client paying for competence or for the medium’s fame and overhead? Highly visible mediums tend to be highly priced (assuming you think $300 an hour and up is high.) They are often promoted with active social media marketing. They take on high overheads to support and expand their business. It would be refreshing to hear mediums address this. Are they happy with this system? What are the ethics involved in their pricing? What kind of testing or accreditation should be involved, if any, to justify high fees? Does spirit concur with current pricing practices? Do different societies, say British versus Americans or Africans, approach compensation to mediums differently?

The ratings. In today’s world with the Internet, people can voice their opinions or review the service they got from mediums. This also opens up the possibility that a medium can plant good reviews and enemies or unscrupulous competitors can plant bad reviews. How does this affect mediumship? How do potential clients deal with what may not be true reviews, either good or bad?

Who’s on first? There seem to be different beliefs about what happens to the personality at death. Some mediums say we take our personalities to the other side. Others say we merge with the collective and no longer have individual personality. Some say we never fully incarnate with all of our energy; that a high portion of us stays in spirit while the other part incarnates. Sometimes there can be simultaneous incarnations; one soul incarnates into several people at once. What exactly is the entity that speaks through mediums at any given time? Is it the person, is it a higher self, is it a collective?

Continued growth. In light of the above, a medium could contact personalities (like Mark Twain) who (probably) have already gone on to other lifetimes as new people. Does this imply that any historical character (as with all of us) continues to evolve as that consciousness while s/he also grows as other people in new incarnations?

Change of character. Sometimes ornery characters on the earth plane start speaking from spirit as wise, loving, friendly beings who would have been a pleasure to hang out with. When and how does this change of character happen? How does a mean-spirited drunk or abusive parent suddenly become caring and loving? How about people who in physical life had no interest in metaphysics, yet suddenly sound like ascended masters from spirit?

Time. What is time like between the dimensions? How does time work when flesh humans are in one system that has time and discarnates are in another where time is different? Someone may have died ten years ago our time, but what is it in their time? Sometimes spirits who are “freshly dead” in our time have already gone through life reviews, reunions, and so on. They seemed to change personalities or may have even advanced considerably (of course, this also reflects the medium.)

Accents. Entities who come through via trance-channel mediums often arrive with foreign (to America) accents, or an accent different from that of the consciously awake medium. If two different mediums were to channel the same entity, how closely would the accent and personality follow? How is change of accent explained? (Having heard several trance-channeled iterations of Jesus, I have not heard a same-sounding accent come through from different mediums. They are all different.)

Soul Phone. Presumably, the invention of a soul phone would revolutionize human consciousness by proving life after death. A device capable of communicating with the so-called dead would be an amazing source of comfort and enlightenment. However, in this land of marketing and riches, would or could some corporation monopolize and then monetize the technology? Would or could spirits from the other side allow the soul phone to be lost to commercial interests or become too costly for many?

Psychic referral services. A referral business for psychic mediums may sound like a good idea, but what if it is more like an advertising service? What if the mediums are not vetted or certified as it is implied (until you read the small print?) If mediums pay a listing fee to be featured, then this is advertising with the main beneficiary being the advertising provider. A more comprehensive form of medium certification could help those mediums who are not of the show business mentality (the introverts) but would like certification.

Supply and demand. I find it odd when mediums have long wait lists for personal readings (like over a year) yet still promote their services through ordinary marketing practices. They continue building a demand that they cannot satisfy.

Frauds and karma. If mediums actually see spirits, hear voices, and so on, why would they commit fraud or willfully cheat to amass fame and fortune? Wouldn’t they of all people know that they are responsible for their actions and that physical death would bring them truth to bear? Or were they just acting a part in the Earth School curriculum?

Fraud damage. I think it is important to acknowledge the impact of grandstanding, fraudulent, or incompetent mediums. They feed fuel to skeptics. If they ultimately disappoint, discourage, or enrage clients, it brings dishonor upon the whole field. It makes being a legitimate medium that much more challenging.

Books. Mediums often say that a spirit guide instructed or inspired him or her to write a book. As a writer and as far as I can tell, spirit guides have not been lining up to dictate a book to me! In days past, publishing a book was a major event that involved a whole team of support professionals from a reputable publisher. Getting published was not easy. These days seminars teach how to write a book in a weekend and publish it the next day. Many self-published books today tend to more like commercials for a medium—advertising to create demand for readings—more than explorations of topics.

Vocabulary. As consciousness about death and afterlife evolves, vocabulary should evolve, too. Mediums today often speak to our current culture’s understanding of reality, yet if death is transition, not termination, and life is eternal and nonphysical reality is just another place to live, a new vocabulary should be created. Maybe words need to be re-defined or new words invented to represent new paradigms. Maybe ubiquitous phrases like “tragic death” can be altered to fit a new perception.

Pottymouth spirits. Speaking of vocabulary, over the last few years, more spirits have taken to conversational swearing—to the delight of some and to the head-shaking of others. One champion of the f-bomb is Erik from Channeling Erik, which has the various mediums who channel him swearing, too. While Erik generally offers astute spiritual wisdom with his “regular guy” pottymouth talk, other mediums claim that great spiritual teachers would not swear. (I have read dialogues from some so-called ascended masters who swear, at least via the words that come out of the medium’s mouth.)

Mediums and cults. Sometimes a cult will form around a medium. A cult is often characterized by isolation, secrecy, intimidation, financial blood-sucking, elitism, and narcissism. Is this fraud, devotion to a “low-level” spirit, or a religion? The lack of afterlife research from the mainstream world seems to make cults more powerful in their appeal to certain individuals.

MYSTERIES

Here are a few bonus questions not specifically about mediums, per se.

Nature. The paradigm in the nature kingdom is that we all eat one another in a food chain. Nature shows are filled with violence and cruelty, but it is regarded as “nature.” Why was this plan put into place? What was the design intent? Speaking of nature, what about those creatures that humans have described as pests, such as ants, mosquitoes, roaches? Is killing them a crime against nature? And what about plant life, especially that we cultivate as food?

Wars. Are wars pre-planned? If they occur on Earth for the purposes of karma or upgrading spiritual awareness, is there any point in trying to stop them? If we were to understand the karmic nature of warfare, what would be our exit strategy from choosing not to wage war? Is it even possible?

Diseases. Some authors/mediums claim that we choose exit points and manners of dying. This has huge implications for humanity. Currently we live in worry about how we will die and try to make our life as safe as possible from disease, accidents, and plagues of all kinds. If our death is actually planned in advance, we output vast amounts of energy worrying about various diseases as killers. Additionally, it’s often suggested that our health care industry is more concerned with profit than healing, which could include alternative ways to heal besides drugs and surgeries.

Earth School. On one hand, we are supposed to be in Earth School with a series of obstacles set in our path as learning experiences. So, ultimately, are we supposed to change Earth and make it a more loving place, or are we supposed to accept that this is Earth School where many obstacles are pre-planned?

Sex. In humans, sex serves more purpose than procreation. Over the years, however, culture as a whole has abused sexuality with such institutions as human trafficking, rape, abuse, exploitation, etc. Sexuality has been separated from spirituality when the two are much better merged. As a general rule, spirits don’t talk much about the purpose of sex as an agent of healing, bonding, and even friendship. Some spiritual sources indicate that in the spirit world, monogamy does not exist. Sex there is energy/consciousness merging, and is beyond earthly comprehension. However, understanding it would probably help people in this plane rise above the mess that sex is in today.

Prayer. What is it exactly? Religions create specific rituals, but there must be a big picture, all-encompassing version of what praying is, one that might even satisfy those who do not accept a religious depiction of God. Can praying be non-religious?

Grief. How might the experience of grief evolve if it were conclusively proven that death launches consciousness into another dimension? Could the future of “death” become more of a celebration like graduation or a retirement party?

Hospice. If grief and the perception of death evolves, so could hospice. How might this excellent service from today evolve with changing views?

Death itself. For many of us, the vision of how death works comes from movies and books. It looks scary and painful. People who have had near-death experiences often reveal that dying was not painful—even if coming back into the body was! Is death painful?

THE LIST GROWS

I will add to this list either as I think of other things or people suggest them.

Proving woo-woo

Woo-woo

I am a visionary writer and an open-minded skeptic. I like to daydream about how life could be for humanity if we re-invented ourselves into a more loving, caring species.

I have always loved the idea that we don’t stop living at death, that somehow in some form our consciousness goes on, caterpillar to butterfly, and that we pass to a much more fair, just, and loving universe. Yet I have grown up with enough analytical skills to want proof that I am not caught up in some sort of Utopian afterlife woo-woo fantasy that I am all too equipped to create. This became especially true for me when my parents crossed, both in their nineties and tired of dealing with their worn-out bodies. It would be nice to know how they’re faring.

However, if you are not well-connected, finding proof that there truly is an afterlife can be challenging. What do I mean by well-connected? Have you seen spirits or heard voices? Do you have some mystical experience that offers solid personal proof and removes the fear of death from your consciousness? Do you have access to a skilled evidential medium whose accuracy left you convinced that a loved one is still around?

Currently, my connections are in short supply. I have read plenty of books, watched dozens of afterlife-related videos, even attended an afterlife conference. Much of this has been very persuasive, yet I am still an open-minded skeptic. I still want to have my own big kahuna of personal breakthroughs to put me over the top.

AFTERLIFE RESEARCH

I find it strange how slowly our society moves on afterlife research. While some researchers say there is more than enough evidence to conclude that soul survival is real, we the people are still nowhere near the tipping point of group consensus. With so much evidence teasing us in books, all over social media, YouTube, and alternative channels, I am still in frustrated awe at how slowly research progresses.

Here are a couple examples of afterlife-teasers from YouTube:

The Afterlife Investigations: The Scole Experiments is a fascinating look at phenomena which strongly suggest that consciousness does not die.

A prominent afterlife researcher Gary Schwartz PhD speaking at an Afterlife convention in 2013 shares his experiences and projects including his work on the so-called soul phone.

In contrast, just google something like “stupid research projects” and see how much money is being spent answering questions that hardly rock humanity as much as afterlife research would. Imagine if we took the kind of money we spend on weapons research and studied whether or not consciousness truly dies (including that of everyone killed in wars.) We would probably get enough change back from this research to end global starvation, and that does not include the change it would bring for our daily lives.

Until that time happens, those of us not well-connected go searching for answers in what I find to be a surprisingly tight-lipped culture (unless you’re buying what they’re selling.)

ROCK STAR CULTURE

We seem to be in an era where stand-out mediums become like celebrity rock stars. This trend of blending our spiritual nature with ordinary show business disturbs me. It arguably makes personally meaningful research more challenging.

On one hand, celebrity mediums help draw attention to the afterlife in general, which is good. Brand name mediums fill many of us with wonder. That could lead to a popular demand for better afterlife research and more answers.

But then comes marketing, marketing, marketing—as happens with any celebrity. Mediums end up hiring a staff to deal with demand, then PR/marketing pros to increase demand for services to pay for the increased overhead. Up go the reading fees. Then comes the ordinary ego-driven, fear-based marketing techniques used to lure in customers. This then becomes a business like any other.

Celebrity mediums often have waiting lists for over a year and charge more than a good doctor, lawyer, or engineer. They often do this without any certification of authenticity. The customer usually pays in advance, and the sessions are conducted under the medium’s terms, which sometimes includes a “no questions” policy, which means that what they offer is not a two-way conversation with the deceased. Don’t ask us; we’ll tell you.

Celebrity mediums tend to be packaged as people with special magical powers. We turn them into gods and goddesses, and they often draw followers and worship. I think of them as cosmic government employees given special security clearances for top-secret contract work. They get to know more than ordinary people get to know. Knowledge is power.

CHANNELING ERIK

In the YouTube-driven universe, we have great access to videos galore, a mostly unrestricted larder of mind food. Back in 2014 I encountered a video of the medium Jamie Butler channeling the late Robin Williams. (For some unknown reason, that video is no longer online.) I was fascinated by Jamie’s apparent ease in having free-flowing conversations with the other side. No problem seeing or hearing dead people. She also had the most infectious smile and sweet personality. To my eye she showed no body language sign of making this stuff up.

I watched other videos in the Channeling Erik series. Jamie had tete-a-tetes with Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Jesus, Buddha, Adolf Hitler, Jack the Ripper, etc.

This open-minded skeptic became very excited about the possibility that mediums could have such easy-going conversations with chatty dead people. I imagined all the incredible things we could learn from our ancestors if this was true.

But my wild optimism was tempered by logic. If Jamie Butler is the real deal, why hasn’t the afterlife research community descended on Atlanta, Georgia to do whatever it takes to employ her for serious research purposes? Does she not want to? Is she too expensive for research? Are researchers not watching YouTube to discover her? Are they doing research but it’s secret?

Jamie announced late in 2015 that she was no longer channeling Erik. Elisa Medhus, Erik’s mother, apparently sought out other mediums. The current mediums also display a similar conversational style as if they can see and hear Erik and others just fine. However, for me they are less believable than Jamie. It’s a feeling thing.

Too many mediums in general appear to be guessing, fishing, or pontificating. Sometimes they use cold reading techniques, a known magician’s trick. Sometimes they shotgun multiple items to see if one makes an impact. If the medium says “Your grandfather liked bowling, gardening, and travel” and only one was recognizable, was that a hit or was it 66% wrong?

For the average person, $500+ an hour for a private reading is cost-prohibitive. I call it a rip-off if the material received is like a platter of spiritual platitudes available in a $9.95 paperback. It’s one thing if the medium can demonstrate absolute authenticity through passing along details that only the physically-deceased would know. It’s another if mediums fill up the time with smoke and mirrors.

I am reminded of a schlocky estate lawyer my family had once. He charged a bargain $350 an hour! His bill included all the small talk. He essentially charged us to listen to all of his small talk which had nothing to do with the legal issue. Mediums sometimes fill up their readings with gratuitous talk that the sitter ends up paying for.

Skeptics have a field day suggesting how mediums commit fraud. I must say that I am just as skeptical of skeptics, especially professional celebrity skeptics like James Randi who make their living off playing the antagonist role. I don’t think it helps truth-seeking, which is the role of true skepticism, when skeptics become nay-saying pottymouths who seem more argumentative than truly inquisitive.

Yet on the other hand, the whole rock star medium scene displayed in many YouTube videos seems like a party game that screams “for entertainment purposes only.” Pretty pricey entertainment, too.

AFTERLIFE LITERATURE

Many authors of afterlife books had compelling personal experiences that gave convincing-to-them proof of a hereafter. That turns out to be great for them, but until I have my own experiences, it means that I depend on someone else for insight. Not so good. Religion is like that, too. Religious faith is usually based on being inspired by someone else’s revelation of what the truth is.

Researcher Roberta Grimes (The Fun of Dying, the Fun of Staying in Touch, Liberating Jesus, The Fun of Growing Forever) had two childhood experience with the light. As a young man, researcher Gary Schwartz (The Afterlife Experiments, The Sacred Promise) had a life-altering mystical experience hearing voices warning him of an impending crash. Anyone who has written about a near-death experience relies on their own cosmic adventure for truth-seeking. Mediums like John Edward, James Van Praagh, George Anderson, Gordon Smith, Jamie Butler, Sylvia Browne, and others are/were all super-charged with conviction through their own talents and skills.

Those who’ve had intense spiritual experience that they relate in their books all seem to insist that we are never alone. They make it sound like there is a squadron of angels, guides, and family all eager to help us out at a moment’s notice. But some of us live in a darkened sound-proof booth without tangible evidence that this is so. We are left to faith. It is for us that a strong evidence-based case for the afterlife would be especially useful.

MY READINGS

Recently I volunteered to be a sitter in a scientific study of mediumship. There was to be no contact between the medium and me. I sent in a fabric swatch that the medium used as a tool for psychometry. The researcher sent back written feedback from 7 readings the medium conducted from 7 fabric swatches. I was instructed to score each one for accuracy as if each one had been intended just for me. I knew that only one had been. After scoring, I was to send back the form and would then receive 7 drawn portraits, one of which had been based on a description of what the medium saw when doing the reading based on the fabric I had sent.

To my disappointment, none of the readings were recognizable as either the person I was hoping for contact from or from anyone else I knew. Maybe a 10% accuracy? One reading not intended for me seemed to be more accurate! When the portraits were sent to me, one of them had a small physical resemblance, but turns out it was not the one intended for me. I did not recognize the one intended for me.

A few weeks after that I had a mini-reading in a live streaming event with a medium I had seen in a public demonstration at an afterlife conference I attended. (I am intentionally not saying who the medium was.) Of the seven items mentioned as being for me, only one was semi-recognizable. By semi-recognizable, I mean that it was a broadly true statement but lacked enough specificity to be considered evidential.

One intriguing thing about the experience was that both mediums mentioned the same somewhat uncommon name, even though I did not recognize it as anyone I knew. I look forward to seeing if that name pops up in some meaningful way in the future.

OPEN-MINDED SKEPTICISM

As a visionary writer, I have already created for my own delight stories about the afterlife and multi-dimensional existence. I believe that I could write a convincing near-death experience account, which would be fiction. I could also probably write a convincing dialogue from spirit, which, given lack of proof that my guides exist, would also feel like writing fiction.

So I am definitely rooting for mediums who want to help humanity with their gifts. My skepticism only reflects that I want the best proof possible that mediumship is a legitimate avenue of evidence for the afterlife. As I have posted before, I personally believe that the future of humanity is at stake.

FUTURE POST

In a future post I will suggest what I would like to see in a book written by a medium that would be most helpful to an open-minded skeptic like me. I would like to see a book go to the next level besides the same ol’ Q&A. I have intriguing questions, and I hope they would have intriguing answers.

Exciting lewd thoughts

Lenore Kanel The Love Book

Fifty years ago, a woman by the name of Lenore Kandel published The Love Book. It was an eight-page, 825-word volume of love poetry that would land her in hot water, and I do not mean soaking luxuriously in a hot tub.

I was just seventeen, you know what I mean, and the way she wrote was way beyond compare.

I was raised in a country that prided itself on its freedom of speech. We were taught as kids that America was so great because it was the Land of the Free. For years I had been pledging allegiance to the flag, a daily affirmation of loyalty to the country that was so great and powerful that we could pursue our happiness as we pleased.

But in my seventeenth year, Lenore Kandel’s poetry was confiscated and the alternative book store owners that sold it (City Lights Bookstore and the Psychedelic Shop) were put on trial and eventually convicted. The San Francisco Police Department deemed that her love poetry “excited lewd thoughts” and that the defendants “knowingly possessed obscene matter with the intent to sell.”

I immediately journeyed to San Francisco and bought a copy because I apparently needed some lewd thoughts in my young life. It cost $1.00.

Fifty years later, I fished into my memory stash and pulled out her book. I read it again. I was amazed at its beauty. Ironically, it spoke more to me as a man full of reflection arguably near the end of his sex life than it did when I was a sexual newbie full of hope and promise for the life ahead.

HOLY EROTICA

Witnessing for the defense, Kandel called her work “holy erotica.” She was writing about the connection between sexuality and spirituality, a connection she deeply felt. Even today, the cultural majority builds a Great Wall between the two. Sex is not considered spiritual in any way, shape, or form, and spirituality is likewise not considered sexual. Kandel offered a rare voice in suggesting that sex can be a religious experience.

Wrote Ken Hunt in 2009: Her poetry was deeply resonant of her immersion in South Asian mysticism in which spirituality may take allegorical paths, including ones of eroticism and carnality, to divinity. Her “Small Prayer for Falling Angels” communicated an understanding of Hinduism’s Goddess Kali that Westerners rarely have. “Kali-Ma, remember the giving of life as well as the giving of death… Kali-Ma, remember the desire is for enlightenment and not oblivion.”

Prosecuting obscenity cases has always turned into a miasma of legal jargon. Is a celebration of sexual stimuli as a springboard to spiritual responses the same as promoting “lewd thoughts?” Is attempting to describe the cosmic significance of fuck (a sacred word as she used it then) on the same shelf as just about any offering found at pornhub.com?

Yet in 1967, a jury took ten hours of deliberation to find the controversial book to be “utterly without redeeming social value,” a legal definition for obscenity.

As a result of the verdict, book sales skyrocketed!

In 1974, the judgment against Kandel was overturned in a higher federal court after a state supreme court had upheld the verdict.

OBSERVING THE OBVIOUS

Something else I find astounding about The Love Book is that a woman wrote it. Women at the time were seriously discouraged to boldly go where no man has gone before. Expressing enthusiasm about sexual love was usually a male author’s calling, and as such was often more about bragging rights than essays about cosmic wonderment.

Kandel was also a rare sex-positive voice, rare for either gender. In her book, she was positively enchanted about the joy of sex, and this before Dr. Alex Comfort came along with his best-selling book, which despite its title, did not seem nearly as joyful to me. Kandel’s poetry evoked visions of awe and wonder, especially if so-called dirty words pleased more than freaked the reader.

Some readers called The Love Book porn. Ironically, porn predominantly festers in negativity.  Since 1966, the porn industry has had fifty years within which to explore, evolve, and perfect its product. The multi-billion dollar a year industry comes nowhere close to expressing the love, the hope, and the cosmic consciousness that was core to the message in The Love Book.

Porn usually treats people as if they have no other value in life besides being sex machines. By contrast, The Love Book is not anti-human. It is not sexually mean and condescending. It doesn’t even suggest non-monogamy. Even as her erotic poetry celebrates the role that flesh plays in the sexual dance, Kandel made clear that body enjoyment spawned consciousness that she found divinely inspired.

Said Lenore Kandel of her book: “I believe when humans can be so close together to become one flesh, or spirit, they transcend the human into the divine.”

The porn industry could learn so much if they paid attention to that 825-word book!

How strange a legacy to leave: poetry deemed obscene that teaches how sacred the body temple can be in the minds of lovers–and how taboo words can be used to accentuate beauty.

THE BIG PICTURE

The freeing up of language in America has not led to sexual enlightenment. Dirty talk has become a public spectacle, yet usually for insulting and marginalizing people, not for pointing the way toward higher sexual consciousness.

People growing up today come of age in a world full of edgy talk. When I was growing up, I had to launch a major search expedition to find dirty words in print. Look what happened when I searched today in google for the f-word: “About 241,000,000 results (0.36 seconds)”

Just about any night I can watch something on Netflix or HBO’s streaming service that is filled with colorful language, including depictions of President Selina Meyers’ expletives undeleted on Veep.

The take-away for me is more than just the novelty of the changing times, however. It’s more than that the printed words that caused arrests, prosecution, and persecution in 1966 are 2016 staples. Where would HBO ratings be without its cast of cursing characters on its original shows?

The take-away is that so many of our sacred cows are actually moving targets. We can get all excited about someone who does or says things differently than mainstream (or our peer group), and yet very little is granite solid in the big picture.

SEX ON THE MOVE

Different people see different things in sex. One person might see a cosmic miracle while someone else sees perversion and the next someone sees carnal entertainment, and so on. Further, over one person’s lifetime, the vision of what sex is can change, too. People change their minds about things based on the current circumstances in their lives.

I like to keep this principle in mind when I am tempted to judge people or when the circumstances of my life send me into new territory. I have far fewer absolutes in my life these days. Blacks and whites have all smeared into grays. I never know what it is like to dwell inside someone else’s body and that person’s unique history.

For the last fifty years, I have believed in my own version of holy erotica. If we were born and raised in a culture that took a more mature view of sexuality, treating it as a sacred gift and showing it respect, I believe that the global difference between what we have now and what we would have then would be astounding.

Sometimes I try to imagine what it might have been like living inside Lenore Kandel’s brain when she “fucked with love.” Did she truly experience in her own sex life the rapture she described in her poetry? Or was her poetry an attempt to define and describe a vision of what she hoped to find someday (for herself and for all of us?)

When I read her words, I am, of course, projecting my own consciousness into them. Words are just symbols, and we all have our own internal dictionaries. Yet I would definitely sign up “to change the temper of the air passing two strangers into one osmotic angel beyond the skin.”

Pretty deep stuff for someone whom many people labeled as a smut peddler. The God of my daydreams would look at Kandel’s writing and go, “Atta Girl! You got what I was going for!”

MORE READING

Informative article about the trial which goes into much more background about the case including how it was less of an obscenity trial and more about harassing hippies for rocking the social boat.

Excellent post about Kandel’s poetry and her place among Beat Generation poets. She was often overlooked.

Interview (video) with Lenore and information about her poetry.

The language of death

Thats-all-folks

“Albuquerque police issued a ‘desperate’ appeal for witnesses Wednesday after a cold-blooded shooter drove up alongside a car in early rush hour traffic and opened fire, killing a 4-year-old girl as her horrified parents watched in an apparent case of road rage.”

That is how a Fox news affiliate described a recent murder. Notice some of the emotionally charged words used in this supposed-to-be objective news report: desperate, cold-blooded shooter, opened fire, killing, horrified parents, road rage. 

Besides describing a crime, this piece is contributing to social conditioning. The quoted lead sentence above illustrates  state-of-the-art language of death. We are exposed to this kind of writing (and broadcasting) on a daily basis, gruesome writing that highlights violence, promotes fear, and reinforces hopelessness.

Most people do not stop to think about the mind food they ingest whenever they watch, listen to, or read the news. The majority still accepts news reports as mostly true (despite an increasing awareness of politicized media bias.) Many people still assume that unless a well-known news source says something is true, it isn’t true.

Journalists are trained not to accept anything as fact that cannot be proven or confirmed, so they don’t go around giving any stock to the paradigm that death is just the shedding of a physical body and that the mind survives the end of the body.

According to journalists, at death we fade to black. That’s all Folks! Reporters write their stories using the language of death derived from centuries of story-telling. Oh, the humanity. If you agree with the so-called “scientific” conclusion that death kills us deader than a door nail, you are  more apt to accept the language of death that emphasizes tragedy, grief, sadness, horror, and other scary story words.

I recently attended an afterlife conference and had my mind filled with presentations and demonstrations about the survival of consciousness. It definitely has me questioning the validity of the version of reality I hear in the news.

THE fog of death

Sometimes I consider the possibility that our general media world is living in the fog of death without realizing it. Could it be that in some future generation, it will be taught in every school that mainstream culture in the 21st Century bought and perpetuated the fantasy that death kills us and kills us completely? Will people of the future shake their collective heads in bemusement at how many 21st Centurians refused to study an afterlife on the grounds that survival beyond death was an absurd idea? Worse, will they further joke about how 21st Centurians created dramatic myths of death and dying for their marketing, their legal affairs, their military operations, their entertainment?

Will people in some future think of us as we think of people who were “scientifically” sure that the planet was flat or that it was impossible for man to walk on the moon?

Of course, many skeptics who discuss woo-woo (often billed as experts) say that those who believe in an afterlife are the ones doing the fantasizing. Science doesn’t fantasize, the belief goes. Yet what if science is wrong? What if the devotion that science pays to materialism as well as to corporate profits keeps it from accurately making conclusions about spiritual realities?

Researcher and author Donna Smith-Moncrieff writes a comprehensive essay about how and why science is missing the mark when researching the afterlife. She does this in her book Medium9.

Despite what science suggests, millions of people have first-hand awareness of multi-dimensional travel through their personal near-death, out-of-body, and other mystical experiences. Millions of these people with direct personal insight into different dimensions say they “know” more than “believe” or “accept” that life continues. Millions of people with their own profound  experiences do not care what science or journalists say.

LOOK INTO THE FUTURE

With so much violence in the news today, I like to wonder how news reporting would sound if the afterlife (or continuation of life in another dimension) was an accepted paradigm. I wonder what life would be like if the prose we heard day in and day out was more like this:

“Albuquerque police report that a four-year-old girl made a transition into the light today when an unidentified man shot at the car in which she was a passenger. Police confirmed the girl’s arrival in spirit and are seeking information from anyone who may have witnessed the incident.”

I know that sounds as weird as, “Science has just confirmed that the Earth is actually flat despite massive evidence to the contrary.”

But it is important to understand that how we get our information about world events is often colored by word usage, which has propaganda value. If it were ever proven empirically that death is a transition — say maybe a communications device that could link the physical and non-physical worlds — the language of death would change to accommodate revisions to reality that were required.

Most places promote the idea that death is a horrible thing. Currently, descriptions of death, especially in the case of violence, highlight the manner in which someone dies. The news is often a bloody mess. The real story that is not mentioned in the news is what fascinates spiritualists. The real story is multi-dimensional.

For example, various books by hypnotherapists and psychic mediums suggest that people come into this world with a well-developed plan for what will happen in life. Life is more like Earth School for souls inhabiting bodies. The plan or curriculum often includes time and manner of death, sometimes even including murder and suicide. If research proved this, it would offer a major change to how we perceive and report there-are-no-accident events. Was a murder planned? Was it a karmic event?

The real story from the victim’s point of view is so unlike news depictions. Books and videos about near-death experiences or that use mediums to talk with the physically deceased describe death in piece-of-cake terms. I cannot recall reading an account of dying where the victim in spirit was upset about the “tragedy” that befell them. It’s more like, “Wow, this place is great! Wish you were here!”

AVOIDANCE OF DEATH

Still, most places teach us that death is terrible and we should avoid it at all costs. The news often reminds us to do things to avoid an early death. Solutions for living longer often have a funny way of costing extra money. “Buy some peace of mind.”

Marketing uses fear of death as a selling strategy. Once we’re quaking in fear, marketing sells solutions. This goes for everything from terrorism to street crime to the food we eat and the diseases we could get. So yes, with a bombardment of fear, it is difficult to consider that death might not be so bad. It’s even more of a stretch to believe that death could happen on a schedule and not by chance. It also means that a “tragically” premature death might have actually happened right on schedule.

This idea grates on the nerves and sensibilities of many of us, but people involved in afterlife research keep getting the same message. The tragedy of death seems most tragic to those left behind, not those who made the transition. So-called dead people who check back through mediums are rarely sad. As in the movie Ghost, they may stick around for a bit to sort through some unfinished business from their mortal lives, but they are having more fun than a day at Disneyland where everything is free. All that talk about lives cut short is an invention of the mind of the grieving.

THE LANGUAGE OF DEATH

You can get a preview of how news might reports deaths by attending workshops or conferences where most people already accept death as transition, not termination. It could be an IANDS group or an afterlife conference or a website devoted to spiritual matters. In places like this, fear of death is healed.

Language would probably need to be upgraded to deal with changing paradigms. Nowadays one often hears the term crossing over or transitioned used by people to convey metamorphosis from physical to nonphysical form. Perhaps something even simpler would emerge to replace terms like died and killed. Crossed, moved, morphed, or changed might become synonyms. New terms would likely be invented.

Quite possibly birth and death will  take on new meanings presuming that consciousness exists before physical birth and survives physical death. It’s a whole different ball game to consider that a newborn baby is actually the incarnation of an eternal soul who has already lived many lifetimes. Parents are sometimes surprised by children who seem to clearly remember a previous lifetime or who have invisible friends.

SKEPTIC’S CORNER

Anyone who goes online to learn about metaphysical phenomena will undoubtedly encounter skeptics. As with many things, when I encounter skepticism, including my own, my radar goes out to check the intent of that skepticism. Is it well-intended inquiry or is it trolling?

Many skeptics seem more eager to insult psychics, mediums, healers, and near-death experiencers than to thoughtfully listen and consider. They often use loose-canon terms like fraud even when they cannot prove how fraud was committed. They seem less interested in truth-seeking and more interested in grandstanding, especially when skepticism is how they make their money. They sound more like politicians than researchers.

So while I truly get that much of this may be tough to swallow, I think it is most helpful to be open-minded and consider the evidence. Healthy skepticism is great when it is not used as a weapon. Asking deep questions fosters deeper understanding. If a skeptic wants to get my attention, best not to use attack rhetoric; rather, best to show love of humanity  and a genuine interest in the truth.

THE FINAL WORD

When I read or watch or listen to the news now, I filter the prose that I hear. I account for the possibility that death might be a fantasy of the religion of materialism. While grief is always a part of the human experience, death might mean more than “That’s all Folks!”

Why should we study death and afterlife?

Autumnal-rest

These days there’s a woo-woo expert on every corner, and most of them have either written books, gone into business as practitioners, or promoted themselves as teachers and speakers at gatherings around the world. Their wisdom is based  on incredible experiences that gave them “knowing” instead of “accepting” when it comes to awareness of the afterlife and other levels of consciousness. They’ve seen the light, heard spirits speaking to them, gotten great hellos from heaven, been visited by master teachers, had access to spot-on mediums, watched UFOs hover overhead, or generally been swept up in a whole magical mystery tour.

I personally have not had a conscious out-of-body experience or a near-death experience. I have not heard voices or seen spirits. Nothing so-called paranormal has happened to me. Producers of today’s trendy “spiritual” TV shows and literary agents looking for potential best-sellers would be thoroughly unimpressed with my history.

So I am speaking here merely as a consumer…  I am open to learning from others without having had personal experiences of book-worthy magnitude. I have always been fascinated with this stuff. Like a blind person, I depend on others to tell me what they have experienced as a way for me to decide what is real. So I would love to be exposed to anything that validates my intuition-based belief in the afterlife.

I have studied the topic enough that I don’t need introductory explanations. I graduated from Afterlife 101 years ago, and I now want deeper insights. I have attended dozens of workshops and groups about consciousness, death, the afterlife, psychic development, inner healing, and academic research being done on these topics. But now I want to know more. And that got me thinking about the kind of content I would want to see in a conference of this type. What burning questions or unresolved issues do I have that would motivate me to spend the money on airfare, accommodation and conference tickets?

I invite you to consider  these questions: Are you seeking validation that a deceased loved one still exists? Would you like some comfort knowing that you are not alone in having a certain spiritual or mystical experience? Have you read a ton of books on the subject, yet want to experience a more personally meaningful understanding? Does your career somehow involve death and dying?

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

As I focus on today’s modern media culture (including marketing, marketing, marketing), I see how much we promote the fear of death, and it is more of an emotional manipulation than anything truly helpful. For most of my adult life, I have wondered what would happen to society if we all came to accept that death of the body is not death of consciousness. This of course presumes scientific breakthroughs proving that the human brain is not our primary consciousness-generator and that consciousness does not depend on a physical brain for life. When our body dies, the rest of us doesn’t die.

If it proves true that there is no death (as every medium and psychic tells us), it means that many forces in our culture have been fictionalizing what death is. Afterlife studies constantly contradict the news media. We keep hearing how tragic, painful, and miserable death is — except from those who have been there through a near-death experience or as reported through an evidential medium. Witnessing my own mother and father die natural deaths at 92 and 95 respectively, I found their transitions to be very peaceful. It was much like a toy top spinning and then winding down until it simply stopped. Their transitions were nothing like the movies or the news depicted.

How will society change when proof of the afterlife (or more accurately, the continuation of life) makes it too hard for the average person to believe the media culture version of death? How will the news media report deaths when death is seen as a transition to another place? How will our current myths generated by the fear of death change when death is better understood by more people?

THE SOCIOLOGY OF MEDIUMSHIP

I think one great role for an afterlife conference is to work toward setting a standard for the good, truth-seeking mediums to follow. Let’s treat this with a little more academic-style scrutiny so that those of us who don’t hear voices can better trust those who do. 

I like to call this area of interest the “sociology of mediumship” — possibly even the future of death. What might a society look like when more mediums become accredited through some form of professional screening and are not so drawn into a celebrity culture?

Right now certain mediums charge what I consider horrendous fees for readings —  celebrity prices. They often build a clientele through standard marketing practices similar to showing off the next model of automobile at a car show. One medium I like on YouTube charges $500 an hour for a personal reading (my family’s trust attorney only charged $350 an hour). Granted, I think I would get more value from the medium, but still, it’s a hefty sum to pay, especially if the medium turns out to be a cheat.

Prices are outrageous because much of this is not yet mainstream, and demand exceeds supply. Celebrity psychics and mediums are often treated like rock stars. They are often entertainers, so naturally the similarities to great magicians seems a little fishy. The less of a novelty talking to the dead becomes, the less the celebrity culture will prevail.

LIFE PLANS

Many mediums along with hypnotherapists doing past and between-life regression therapy are saying that we as souls choose many details of the lives we are about to incarnate into. Many so-called tragedies or conflicts were planned in advance as life lessons, they say. This is Earth School and we have work to do. (Check out the work of Robert Schwartz or Michael Newton). If this were accepted as real, it could revolutionize news reporting, health care, social services, political agendas, research and development, and the list goes on. It could also have a significant impact on religion, government spending, personal aspirations, and so on.

Imagine trying to recruit soldiers and fund wars in a reality where death is only physical, not mental, and where killing is seen to have karmic consequences. Imagine the impact on the criminal justice system as well. Would we execute people if it was known that their minds don’t die? Would people commit as many crimes if they knew that there are personal consequences for harming others?

So much of what happens in our world happens because people think they can get away with shady deals. Studying the afterlife is essentially studying a bigger picture of reality than mainstream society operates under. A high percentage of those who have near-death experiences come back radically changed in their ethics and values, which is a big clue that they experienced a big ah-ha.

While this may sound like a religious point of view — don’t do bad things because cosmic security cameras are always rolling — afterlife researchers and mediums say there is no judgment in the afterlife except how we judge ourselves during life reviews. Still, everything we think or do is not secret, because we are all connected to each other, and every action prompts another action.

IN SUM

Life plans and life reviews harken back to whether or not mediums, hypnotherapists, and even afterlife researchers are reliable resources. Afterlife conferences open doors to peer review and an opportunity to ask personally meaningful questions. They also provide a big picture view of what’s going on with research.

The world is still stuck in the clutches of the fear of death. Afterlife studies offer a positive alternative view and prepare us for the probability that life continues. I am especially interested in exploring the paradigm shift that will occur as more people discover that death is a fiction. For now. I want to walk away from a conference with a little more confidence that I am not just being carried away with wishful thinking.

Do we plan our lives?

BeachMy approach to metaphysics in a nutshell is this: if an idea intrigues me, I like to play with it as if it were true. I like to try the idea on for size, see how it feels, and put it through its paces.

Many people don’t go there unless something of a woo-woo nature has been scientifically proven to be true. They immediately shut down and refuse to even consider the idea, focusing instead on lack of proof. “The afterlife does not exist because it cannot be proven.”

What I do is not much different from when you are buying a house or searching for a new apartment. You go visit the place, and then you visualize yourself living there. You think of how your furniture would fit in the space. You think of how it would feel to wake up in this place each morning. You think of what opportunities await you in this locale along with what hazards may be present.

Not much different for me when I think of concepts like afterlife, reincarnation, out-of-body experiences, extra-terrestrials, and my latest one, pre-birth or between-incarnation life planning.

ROBERT SCHWARTZ

I encountered a couple of books written by Robert Schwartz: Your Soul’s Plan and Your Soul’s Gift. I also watched several interviews with Robert on YouTube.

I’d heard variations on this concept for years, particularly through the work of hypnotherapist and past-life regressionist Michel Newton. It was not an entirely new concept that we as souls plan life relationships and events based on what we want to learn in our future incarnations.

I think of it as recreation or mental adventuring to look at my life and consider this: if certain events were planned like exercises in a lifelong workshop I am taking, what was I supposed to learn? The answers can be surprising.

AN EARLY COLLISION WITH PAIN

I was raging hormones in love with a girl  when I was a junior in high school. From the first time I laid eyes on her, I wanted her. She was smart, funny, and sexy. During our first few dates, she also taught me much about the art of sensual lovemaking, raising the bar on a world of experience that I, still a virgin, was just discovering.

One evening she invited me over for a chat. When I arrived, she said, “I don’t love you anymore.” We were done. That was it. The most helpless feeling I had encountered in my young love life swept through me. I had no clue what had happened to her love.

When my senior year of high school began, she was nowhere to be found. Several months later I learned that she had been at a home for unwed mothers. It turns out that she had apparently gotten pregnant while we were dating. It was biologically impossible for me to have been the father.

It is fascinating for me some half-century later to consider this event from a cosmic perspective. It means one thing if it was just a matter of happenstance. An oh, too bad, girl dumps boy. Just another episode of teen-age angst to chew on. She was the one that got away.

It means something else entirely if it was a planned gotcha. According to the premise that Robert Schwartz lays out in his books, the soul of which I am a part — which would commonly be referred to as “my soul” — got together with her soul before we were born. We planned this event for reasons that were very clear to us then and way under the radar to us once we incarnated.

HOW GOOD IS THAT?

I find it somewhat comforting to think of it as a planned event, hurtful as it had been. Why? It helps me channel energy in a more positive direction to think of it as a learning experience in Earth School than tough luck in young love. It gives some purpose to my pain, which is essentially to learn from it. I find it helpful to look for the gift in my perceived losses. Sometimes they turn into major wins, even if at first they had disaster written all over them.

So what did I learn from having my heart stomped on? Well, I did not see this at first. It was one of the early lessons of when one door slams on your nuts, another door will open. I had to be beaten up a few more times before I realized that life always had a funny way of delivering new situations (in this case lovers) after my personal disasters.

Getting whacked like that also made me much more sensitized to being hurt. In time I learned how to empathize with others in their personal disasters because I had known my own. Empathy for pain usually does not occur without first having suffered pain to know what it feels like.

As it turned out, the agony of this abandonment led me to expressing myself much more in writing. The creative muse frequently happens as one tries to dig out of a pit of suffering. At this point in my life, I was just beginning to connect with my writing ability, and having some great angst material to write about amped me up.

I had to do most of the healing from this episode by myself. I did not have much outside help. As a life experience, this one taught me how to take better care of myself emotionally, and I am thankful that I chose I positive route over something like revenge-consciousness.

Years later when the concept of karma came to my attention, I decided that maybe some of my current-life destiny was to learn about relationships. I don’t normally think of karma as a formula for punishment or even justice. Rather, I see it as creating opportunities for do-overs of past-life mistakes or lessons that our higher self wants to explore in a physical body. I think of my soul as the entity who makes pre-incarnation decisions about karma.

It is possible that in previous lives, “I” (actually an incarnation of my soul) was not the most wonderful of mates. Maybe “I” dumped and ran, breaking someone’s heart in the process. Over the years I would experience several other instances of what to me felt like being abandoned, and I wondered more than once why this seemed to be a trend. Chance or karmic design?

DO WE PLAN THIS SHIT?

Shit happens. Do we plan it?

Of course we need to grasp who “we” refers to. Our current brains did not have previous lifetimes. The “we” as I see it is the soul portion of us that designs from its cosmic perspective what it wants to experience for growth.

Many people resist the idea that our loving higher selves would plan tragedies, cruelties, and disasters for us to endure for the sake of our spiritual growth. I would probably be included among them had it not been for a friend of mine who had a near-death experience when she was in her twenties.

During that experience, she went back to her pre-life planning session where she witnessed how her father agreed to be an abusive parent to her. It was part of the plan. When she returned to physical life, she was able to forgive him for the pain he had caused her. Of course, forgiving him was less about him than it was about her finding peace in her own mind. Forgiveness meant that she could let it go and stay in the now.

So ultimately my friend accepted that yes, “we” plan this shit.

And this is what Your Soul’s Plan and Your Soul’s Gift by Robert Schwartz are about, too. With copious input from spirits via mediums, Robert guides us through a menu of challenging life situations (rape, incest, a loved one’s suicide, abusive relationships, miscarriages and abortions, and so on) to show how those tough situations led to positive outcomes.

Planning a life with the possibility/probability of a few painful episodes to encounter has an interesting relationship, I think, with such beliefs as the law of attraction. Woven through the narrative of Your Soul’s Gift is plenty of material on climbing out of painful circumstances through consciousness techniques. That’s really what the book is about—healing.

So if our souls plan lessons for us that we as physical beings would see as sadistic, they also know that lifelines and healing support are available. Physical incarnation is a boot camp for learning spiritual lessons, and according to Schwartz’s research, we always agree to these events beforehand.

MY BOTTOM LINE

I do not know whether it’s true or not that our souls plan yucky stuff for us. In some ways it seems very Twilight Zonian, and in other ways it makes sense.

Either way, I find it most useful to ask myself if I planned this experience before I was born, why would I have done that? What did I learn from going through it? Just asking the question will yield fascinating and often healing insights that help me on my journey.

FOR FUTURE CONSIDERATION

An impression I have is that if more people accepted the reality of the life plan — in other words, if it were somehow proven — we would have much more compassion for people’s woes. We would understand the cosmic dynamics of this system. We would be more willing to assist people if we got it that shit happens by design.

Shame on shame

Shame

While listening to Monica Lewinsky’s moving presentation on shame and cyber-bullying on a recent TED Talk, I wondered if our culture will ever transcend being so shame-based. Can we turn the corner on this situation that has plagued and sometimes ruined thousands if not millions of lives?

I am actually more hopeful than not. While the Internet gives anonymous attackers the freedom to do their dirty work, it also opens up a delivery system for the spread of healthy consciousness. The carrier for cyber-bullying can also be used to create solutions!

With more attention paid to helping people, the Internet could provide a major tool for lending emotional support to victims of cyber-bullying.

The forces of shame have been in control. Shaming is very popular. As Lewinsky suggested, shaming is the backbone of an industry. People make money off it. Media shame people and attract viewers or clicks, which in turn generates cash from advertisers. Media manipulators have learned that controversy and humiliation into a winning formula for luring the masses to view things, so they artificially inject shaming into gobs of content.

THE POPULARITY OF SHAMING

Many news stories and documentaries are designed around the agenda of shaming someone. It is often promoted that this storytelling is for the common good. Exposing scandalous behavior, corruption, fraud, and so on is intended to shed light on a situation that needs fixing. It’s supposed to rile people up enough to cause some positive solutions.

At some level, this is a good thing. Exposing evil as a means to improve the situation probably helps. However, sometimes evil is exposed only because it is show business.—shaming as a spectator sport or freak show. That is not such a good thing, especially when the real purpose is to entertain for profit.

People are often shamed and ridiculed for simply being different. This depends on the context of the shaming, but every minority group experiences it. Common ones are being obese, gay, transgendered, the “wrong” race, the “wrong” religion, the “wrong” political affiliation, deformed, non-conformist, non-monogamous, mentally challenged, mentally advantaged, emotionally vulnerable, and so on.

SHAME IN ACTION

I became more interested in the impact of  public shaming after watching a few poignant documentaries about a few high-profile cases of people being humiliated.

In Lady Valor: The Kristen Beck Story, we meet a guy who was a Navy SEAL for 20 years, regarded as one of the bravest of the brave in combat situations. Shortly after retiring from the Navy, he revealed to the world that he was transgender. He proceeded to become Kristin Beck, living 24/7 as a woman. The shaming she endured was relentless. (We also now have former Olympic champion Bruce Jenner coming out transgender.)

Jay Reinke was a pastor featured in the documentary The Overnighters about Williston, North Dakota, currently a boom town in the fracking oil industry. The film showed how Reinke opened up his church to homeless job-seekers to provide them with shelter overnight in a town with a huge shortage of vacant rooms. His Christian-based generosity came under fire from congregants and townspeople who felt threatened by this practice. Shaming ramped up when he allowed a sex offender to stay at his home, and later when the pastor made a startling revelation about his own personal life.

Fall to Grace was for me a fascinating look at former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey who resigned from office in disgrace. He admitted to having had an extramarital affair with a man, an admission that led to a bitter divorce and massive shaming and ridicule. He ended up following his passion, which led him to becoming a teacher for female prison inmates. At the same time be began studying to become an Episcopal priest

Ted Haggard was a popular fundamentalist evangelical preacher who kept it a secret that he was gay (bisexual is probably a closer term) while also being married to a woman. The Trials of Ted Haggard showed him in crisis mode dealing with having been banished from his church and the state of Colorado.

All of these documentaries gave intimate portrayals of how these people were forced to deal with massive humiliation. One could argue that some of them brought shame upon themselves by their actions. Maybe so. However, documentaries like this take the viewer behind the headlines and show the struggle of pursuing redemption or social acceptance. How people recover from shame is usually is not part of the public narrative.

I believe that the recovery process is a much more worthwhile story to tell, and I wish it was told much more. The vast majority of us have skeletons in the closet that could be converted into humiliating stories, especially given how shame-driven stories are designed, written, and edited.

SHAMING AND CREATIVITY

I would like to add something else to the story about shaming—how it affects creativity. Being creative means looking at the same thing other people look at and seeing something different. Often it’s seeing where an improvement can be made. However, in our shame-based society, different ideas or different ways of doing things often meet ridicule and derision.

How many people are not exercising their creativity because they were once (or still are) too severely shamed for their non-conformity? How many great innovations large and small have been aborted when people gave up after suffering mental and emotional injuries through shaming?

This is not just about breakthrough inventions that never happen. It’s also about all those people so shamed that they drop out and tune in to deep despair. They feel no compulsion to help save the planet because they already feel excluded and unappreciated. How many conversations were not started, laughs not shared, and hugs not given as a ripple effect from  attacks that knocked the joy out of these people?

As a society, meanwhile, I think we should ask how many acts of violence were sown from the seeds of someone being tormented with shame, especially during childhood? I am not talking about just violent murders and rapes. How often does shame lead to the creation of narcissistic selfishness and obsessive revenge? How often do people once ridiculed and unappreciated turn into shaming zealots and cruel neighbors? How many others become swallowed up in addictions and anti-social activities?

WHAT CAN WE DO?

In her speech, Lewinsky said, “The shift begins with something simple, but it’s not easy: We need to return to a long-held value of compassion.”

And how do we get to compassion? That usually requires empathy. And empathy often involves education.

Perhaps it would be useful to use an analogy that is currently being applied to porn, which some people (including Russel Brand) are calling “the new drug.” The idea is that modern porn affects brain chemistry as some psychoactive drugs do. Shaming or watching shaming as a blood sport might also fall into this category. We might be addicted to shame.

Watch someone in the heat of shaming, like on a cable TV show or YouTube video! That person is awash in excitement. It’s a rush, a big woo-hoo blast of adrenaline. As with much combat, the victim is often not seen as a multidimensional human being; the victim is seen as a punching bag.

Our media culture’s example often teaches us that shaming behavior is acceptable, all part of healthy debate and competition. It often gets into white hats versus black hats, the Patriots (fans) versus the Seahawks (fans), the Left versus the Right.

But our media culture now includes social media, and more people than ever before can weigh in on topics of their choice. Some people like Monica Lewinsky are weighing in on shaming and cyber-bullying.

In my vision of a better world, I see a place where it is easier for mentally and emotionally injured people to find help. There would be more readily available content for people to turn to when they needed it. Help is already available for those who seek it, but I would like to see much more of it, easier for victims of it to find.

The majority of shaming probably does not produce unrecoverable wounding. People can and do bounce back. However, I would like to see more helpful material easier to access for those who are slipping fast into the dark side.