Organized religion: Is it all bad?

#21
Spiritualism emerged from protestant Christianity, but grew to differ from it in important ways. I view it as part of the "rationalist" evidential movement, and has much in common with non-conformism. Seen as part of the bigger picture of nineteenth century psi exploration of table turning, mind reading, seances, etc, it formed the roots of modern paranormal research, but on their own I believe both spiritism and Spiritualism to have contributed little in terms of hard evidence that would satisfy a skeptic. It has certainly been dogged by fraud and showmanship, which make talented mediums far from easy to discern.

There is so much I don't understand about spiritualism, like why spirits do not describe the physics (or non-physics) of their environment. I'm aware there are exceptions, but generally speaking their communications are utterly mundane and have little or no connection with the sense of universal understanding NDErs undergo. None of the things near death experiencers want to relate are routinely described by mediums, and the explanations why, and why not, do not convince me. I'm biased towards mediumship being a form of telepathy that may be under the influence of discarnate entities and the medium's own psyche, but am far from convinced it's a direct connection with deceased family and friends. These are my best guess based on the literature and I'm happy with others arriving at different judgements.
There seems to be little to differentiate some clairvoyance from telepathy I agree but I don't think that's true for Independent Direct Voice mediumship, materialisation mediumship in decent light, clairvoyance with proxy sitters or with drop-in communicators etc.
 
#22
There seems to be little to differentiate some clairvoyance from telepathy I agree but I don't think that's true for Independent Direct Voice mediumship, materialisation mediumship in decent light, clairvoyance with proxy sitters or with drop-in communicators etc.
The problem for me is we don't have the slightest grasp of the phenomenon, and rush to simplistic judgements of it prematurely. The business of materialisation tents sets off alarm bells, and many of the more grotesque manifestations are clearly what they appear to be, fabric, frequently hemmed cheesecloth, vignetted photographs and badly drawn masks. Accepting these as of more than earthly origin requires more faith than I can muster. Neither am I convinced by examples of voice mediumship I've heard, some of which absurdly clichéd and synthetic. The stuff I'm most impressed by is clairvoyance, for which the best evidence is impressive. That points to a role for mind (and I don't mean brain) that is completely unexplored, and indicates other phenomena attributed to survival may have a much greater degree attributed to the medium than previously acknowledged.
 
#23
The problem for me is we don't have the slightest grasp of the phenomenon, and rush to simplistic judgements of it prematurely. The business of materialisation tents sets off alarm bells, and many of the more grotesque manifestations are clearly what they appear to be, fabric, frequently hemmed cheesecloth, vignetted photographs and badly drawn masks. Accepting these as of more than earthly origin requires more faith than I can muster. Neither am I convinced by examples of voice mediumship I've heard, some of which absurdly clichéd and synthetic. The stuff I'm most impressed by is clairvoyance, for which the best evidence is impressive. That points to a role for mind (and I don't mean brain) that is completely unexplored, and indicates other phenomena attributed to survival may have a much greater degree attributed to the medium than previously acknowledged.
I was specifically addressing the point made about telepathy. I don't think any of the mediumship methods I mentioned are a good fit for telepathy, I wasn't saying anyone should accept them as genuine.

I don't know what you mean by "we don't have the slightest grasp of the phenomena". All the methods I mention have been well-researched in the past and endorsed by reputable people.

I'm not impressed by any of the clairvoyance I have personally witnessed though there are good examples in the body of research. If we accept the clairvoyance evidence assessed by others as being of value, and of course this relies on the view we take of the witnesses (unless we have experienced it ourselves), then logically we would not reject the evidence of those who have experienced the other forms of mediumship I refer to.

For me it boils down to evidence. Unless one has a direct personal experience of the types of mediumship I referred to, I don't see how one could be convinced of the truth of it beyond reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, there are those who claim to have witnessed these phenomena, some even on this forum. In which cases one would need to assess their bona fides as witnesses of truth. It's a tricky one. For me, the method with the best chance of providing evidence is through the independent direct voice; finding someone who can do it is not easy though these days.
 
#24
I don't know what you mean by "we don't have the slightest grasp of the phenomena". All the methods I mention have been well-researched in the past and endorsed by reputable people.
What I was going to say was we don't have any grasp of the mechanics of the phenomena, but it seemed too clumsy a word. Basically, I think it's reasonable to attribute all phenomena that can be ascribed to tricks, as such. If we do not, I can't see another way of approaching the authenticity of prodigious phenomena. With mediumship, we have to examine the message, and what it tells us. Dead mother telling us she's okay is meaningless, even to the offspring seeking closure. Mother telling us there's a letter we never knew existed in a box in cousin Mabel's pantry with a share of her inheritance, is useful information. Nearly all mediumistic communication falls towards the former variety. I want to know why it lacks any the depth of living conversation, and unequivocal confirmation is rare. I'm also aware of examples of possession, including benign varieties like spirit surgery, that require explanation, as do Helen Duncan's knowledge of the sinking of HMS hood. It's a minefield of cause and effect and I'm not sure the telephone line from the dead interpretation is born out by the conversations, or the means they're arrived at.
 
#25
What I was going to say was we don't have any grasp of the mechanics of the phenomena, but it seemed too clumsy a word. Basically, I think it's reasonable to attribute all phenomena that can be ascribed to tricks, as such.
Ok I think I understand where you stand on this. I agree, most of the explanations of the mechanics that I have read are vague too. There are however some very detailed descriptions of how the phenomena are achieved. Whether these descriptions are to be believed or not is another question.

There are two issues for me: 1) are the phenomena genuine? and 2) if they are genuine, how are they accomplished? I am still working on 1). I am less interested in the how. I don't expect everyone to share my priorities :). To me, "tricks" mean fraud.

If you are referring to those aspects of mediumship which are simply 'phenomena' - trumpets moving at great speed, icy blasts, raps etc. I don't really see a great deal of evidential value to them although they are a curiosity and many of them, if genuine, would indicate an intelligence directing them. As far as survival evidence is concerned, to me, they amount to precisely squat.

You probably appreciate though that the Independent Direct Voice, and Full Form Materialisation are also considered types of Physical Mediumship and IMHO they have the potential to be highly evidential. Provided that is, one can reduce or eliminate the possibility of fraud and that the purported communicators are known to us and can convey enough information about themselves for the dialogue to be evidential. The mediumship of Minnie Harrison for example is particularly interesting as it was recorded in detail by Tom Harrison however we are reliant on Tom's effectiveness as a witness and unless we knew him personally, that's probably quite hard to assess (though he did make a short film describing his experiences).

With mediumship, we have to examine the message, and what it tells us.
We are in agreement here. To prove survival though, the message is not sufficient as far as I can see. Determining the true source of it is vital.

Dead mother telling us she's okay is meaningless, even to the offspring seeking closure.
Unless the ostensible communicator has been able to prove their identity to a satisfactory standard for the recipient of the message.

Mother telling us there's a letter we never knew existed in a box in cousin Mabel's pantry with a share of her inheritance, is useful information.
Useful yes, but not proof of survival.

I want to know why it lacks any the depth of living conversation, and unequivocal confirmation is rare.
I completely agree it is rare. It is not however unheard of. You mentioned earlier that you didn't find many of the recordings (if any) of the Independent Direct Voice convincing. There are many however who have found convincing evidence via this method, particularly when they have spoken to people they knew. If you haven't read it, you might find Leslie Flint's autobiography quite interesting (Voices In The Dark). I am not saying it will or should convince you, but I found it quite impressive. There is also the mediumship of Emily French summarised in a very digestible form in "The French Revelation" by Riley Heagarty.

The type of recordings I think you refer to are usually monologues, or at the most questions put by someone at the sitting who did not know the ostensible communicator and wouldn't be able to confirm their identity. To me,that is very different to a conversation between two people who know each other. I can think of a number of reasons why these recordings might not be convincing (assuming no fraud) but even then they are merely an element of a much larger body of evidence aren't they?

(I must say I am enjoying this conversation). Alas the hour is late and I must to bed....
 
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#26
If you haven't read it, you might find Leslie Flint's autobiography quite interesting (Voices In The Dark). I am not saying it will or should convince you, but I found it quite impressive.
Recordings of Leslie Flint's were what I was referring to as unconvincing, sadly. I'm off to bed too!
 
#27
It would be a huge differentiator if they did it (demonstrated survival that is) - in my experience they don't. I have yet to see one medium on a platform in a church who provided survival evidence of any quality. In fact I would say that none of the churches demonstrated even an understanding of what good evidence is.

There were always prayers at spiritualist churches I attended.

There is no doctrine but there are principles. I agree spiritualist churches are informal and there is no set dogma one must accept.

The spiritualist churches I attended all addressed "the great spirit" or "father".

From my own experience spiritualist churches (and the SNU in particular) strike me as diluted Anglicans.
Evidence is so subjective. I've seen many cases where I would call the evidence significant. Taken individually I would say it generally doesn't rise the the level of proof.

The problem at the church I have attended (in Massachusetts) is that many of the guest speakers are less than world class mediums. I think this definitely impacts the quality of the evidence.
 
#28
Evidence is so subjective. I've seen many cases where I would call the evidence significant. Taken individually I would say it generally doesn't rise the the level of proof.

The problem at the church I have attended (in Massachusetts) is that many of the guest speakers are less than world class mediums. I think this definitely impacts the quality of the evidence.
Agreed. To a point. There are certainly key elements of evidence which are not really subjective, or at least less so.
 
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#29
Recordings of Leslie Flint's were what I was referring to as unconvincing, sadly. I'm off to bed too!
Yes I assumed you did as I don't think there is any other substantial body of recordings of this type of mediumship. I suspect if all one does is to listen to the recordings one hasn't fully considered the evidence supporting his mediumship. Incidentally some of the recordings are very interesting, for example Ellen Terry. On the whole I'd say the recordings on their own are a curiosity rather than evidence.

The key to the Independent Direct Voice IMHO is in how the voices were produced (which one can't determine simply by listening to a recording) and the content of the messages, which can be difficult to assess unless one knew the ostensible communicator. The recordings suffer from a very restricted format too which didn't elicit much, if any, veridical content sadly.

Few of the recordings I have listened to were really discussions between people who knew each other either which makes them sound somewhat artificial at times. There are still people around who have experienced this type of mediumship though; for example, Zerdini knew Leslie Flint very well and is good source of 'eye'-witness testimony.
 
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#30
Incidentally some of the recordings are very interesting, for example Ellen Terry. On the whole I'd say the recordings on their own are a curiosity rather than evidence.
The Ellen Terry recordings sound like unimaginative propaganda for Spiritualism by someone with a range of voices. It's the sort of thing Margaret Rutherford might say in Blithe Spirit. Flint even drops the"Terry" voice momentarily while thinking of what to say next. There is nothing original or interesting in the material. I think we have to dismiss this kind of thing if we're to cut through the fog of self-delusion to find real phenomena.

 
#31
The Ellen Terry recordings sound like unimaginative propaganda for Spiritualism by someone with a range of voices. It's the sort of thing Margaret Rutherford might say in Blithe Spirit. Flint even drops the"Terry" voice momentarily while thinking of what to say next. There is nothing original or interesting in the material. I think we have to dismiss this kind of thing if we're to cut through the fog of self-delusion to find real phenomena.

Apologies I was thinking of Lillian Baylis :)

I think it's a matter of opinion really. The key is, as I mentioned, in how the voices were produced. If you have confined your research of Flint to the recordings, I can understand why you take the view you do. Flint was however extensively tested by a range of respectable people.

I found found the speech (of Baylis) fluent and 'of its class'. Is it evidential? Not to me, I didn't know her and I wasn't present, I cannot be certain of the provenance of the recordings. Nevertheless it is curious. Wood and Green seemed honest enough to me but who knows? In some of the recordings Flint can be heard speaking at the same time as the ostensible communicators. Quite a feat really if he was faking the voices, but not impossible.

To conclude it was some sort of 'impersonation' by Flint without understanding the full picture would be premature I think, but it's a personal judgement at the end of the day.

I think I have made my position on the evidential value of the recordings clear. To dismiss Flint based only on them isn't, IMHO, a reasonable position take. I don't have a particular axe to grind but I have read a lot about him and talked extensively to someone who knew him well and whose opinion I respect.

We must of course each form our own view based on our own research.
 
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#32
Is it evidential? Not to me, I didn't know her and I wasn't present, I cannot be certain of the provenance of the recordings.
Of course everyone has there threshold of proof to be met, but if yours that you know the person and were there to witness the event then your are destined to remain just where you are,, unconvinced.
 
#33
I haven't read all the material on physical or voice mediumship, but have a reasonably good understanding of the available data. I'm certainly not dismissing the phenomenon, and there's a case to answer in the best exemplars. I don't believe Leslie Flint's is it. The way "Terry" glosses over the after death condition as impossible to describe, while using a range of superlatives for it, is exactly what I'd expect of someone who'd run out of imaginative language for something beyond their reach. The recording sounds like someone imitating the clipped Victorian tones of a middle class actress, and voices, even the most mannered, are always more nuanced and idiosyncratic than the one we heard. We'd have picked up something of the character of Ellen Terry but there was nothing quirky or off-script.

Believers will say that's how Victorian ladies, especially dramatists, spoke, but I don't buy it. Every period recording from the wax cylinder age I've heard contained aspects of the personality of the individual talking into the megaphone - this gave me absolutely nothing back. The "message" never drifted from propaganda, there was no context, it was precisely what I would expect of someone selling an idea. In the same way people say ectoplasm has to look like something, and it's nearly always cheesecloth, they'll say a disembodied spirit has to sound like someone. If so, this someone has had all their personality removed, and it's not a vision of heaven I recognise from other material. It's a Stepford Wife heaven, and I think we're being had. This in no way explains the best examples of mediumship, but Flint's contribution shouldn't detain anyone serious about post-mortem communication.
 
#34
Of course everyone has there threshold of proof to be met, but if yours that you know the person and were there to witness the event then your are destined to remain just where you are,, unconvinced.
I think it depends on the evidence under discussion. It's about probabilities really. What makes anyone's testimony convincing?

My thoughts are that it would include:
  1. Who the witness is and their character;
  2. The extent to which they are independent;
  3. Their potential motives;
  4. Their actual view of the phenomena they report;
  5. The steps they were able to take to exclude fraud or to confirm that the phenomena were genuine;
  6. ** edited to add: the nature and quality of the evidence reported.
The more of the above that I can form a view on, the more chance I have of establishing a firm opinion.

I don't think it would be reasonable to accept the testimony of a complete stranger about what they claim they have seen or experienced at face value. On the other hand I wouldn't dismiss it either.

I think the best form of evidence is direct personal experience. Unfortunately it isn't usually portable.
 
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#35
I haven't read all the material on physical or voice mediumship, but have a reasonably good understanding of the available data. I'm certainly not dismissing the phenomenon, and there's a case to answer in the best exemplars. I don't believe Leslie Flint's is it. The way "Terry" glosses over the after death condition as impossible to describe, while using a range of superlatives for it, is exactly what I'd expect of someone who'd run out of imaginative language for something beyond their reach. The recording sounds like someone imitating the clipped Victorian tones of a middle class actress, and voices, even the most mannered, are always more nuanced and idiosyncratic than the one we heard. We'd have picked up something of the character of Ellen Terry but there was nothing quirky or off-script.

Believers will say that's how Victorian ladies, especially dramatists, spoke, but I don't buy it. Every period recording from the wax cylinder age I've heard contained aspects of the personality of the individual talking into the megaphone - this gave me absolutely nothing back. The "message" never drifted from propaganda, there was no context, it was precisely what I would expect of someone selling an idea. In the same way people say ectoplasm has to look like something, and it's nearly always cheesecloth, they'll say a disembodied spirit has to sound like someone. If so, this someone has had all their personality removed, and it's not a vision of heaven I recognise from other material. It's a Stepford Wife heaven, and I think we're being had. This in no way explains the best examples of mediumship, but Flint's contribution shouldn't detain anyone serious about post-mortem communication.
Having researched Flint extensively I'd have to say your judgement of his work is based on limited information.

There are many other recordings, none of which will be of people you (or I) knew. The descriptions of the afterlife his communicators present is consistent with evidence given via Emily French, John Sloan and others. In his autobiography and in the recordings some communicators discuss the difficulties in using this method of communication. If we assume for argument's sake that at least some of Flint's sessions were genuine, you're potentially ruling out a lot of first-person testimony about the afterlife.

It's true that this conflicts with testimony from ostensible NDE experiences and some channelled guides (but not all - eg Silver Birch). I have no idea how to reconcile the two but I try to keep an open mind.

I'm not trying to convince you Flint was the real deal. I don't know myself, though I am inclined to think he probably was if this kind of phenomenon is really possible.
 
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#36
Having researched Flint extensively I'd have to say your judgement of his work is based on limited information.
Possibly so, although Flint is someone I read up on a few years ago as he was held up as the best in his field. Nothing I've said will convince believers he wasn't the real deal, but nothing he offers will convince a skeptic, even an open-minded one, and therein lies the problem. If someone is serious about examining mediumship the minimum requirement is evidence that can be corroborated, and the musings of actors, dead or alive, do not denote useful data.
 
#37
Possibly so, although Flint is someone I read up on a few years ago as he was held up as the best in his field. Nothing I've said will convince believers he wasn't the real deal, but nothing he offers will convince a skeptic, even an open-minded one, and therein lies the problem. If someone is serious about examining mediumship the minimum requirement is evidence that can be corroborated, and the musings of actors, dead or alive, do not denote useful data.
I think that's fair comment but there is more evidence regarding Flint than simply the recordings. The question of how the voices were produced has also been addressed in research. In addition, it's at least possible to speak to someone who knew him well over many years. At the end of the day he either floats your boat or he doesn't. There is so much evidence to support the possibility survival out there, I don't believe filtering Flint out changes the landscape significantly.

Your comments regarding 'believers' is true I think, but applies to every source of survival evidence as far as I can see (and much so-called 'skeptical' argumentation).

I don't think you'll necessarily convince others he isn't the real deal (not that I think you have a crusade against him) because, with respect, I don't get the impression you know much about him other than the recordings. At least I suppose his claims could be, and were, investigated empirically unlike the teachings of Seth and most NDE reports.

I do find these conversation helpful because we all approach this subject from a slight different angle.
 
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#38
Spiritualism is an evidence based belief system, not a faith based one, so it's reasonable to set standards for such evidence. Anything that can be acted should be assumed to be exactly that. Ordinary living people pretend to be gangsters, doctors, emperors, in films and TV shows every day, and provide the appropriate voices and demeanour, so we should not be amazed at anyone channelling another personality type, unless that personality offers information that is impossible to ascertain by ordinary means. Ventriloquism is an accepted mode of performance, but we don't believe the dummy is talking. Cold and hot reading aren't impressive, any more than a conjurer producing a card someone has chosen is. We admire the performance, we don't attribute special meaning to it beyond the context. I'm looking for information that is unlikely or impossible to be known by the medium, beyond social niceties and the things we expect of suburban housewives or lonely old ladies or grieving partners. Things out of character with their assumed lifestyle and desires. Such things emerge but they're very, very rare indeed, and we shouldn't put Leslie Flint's work in that category.

If you want to provide evidence that Flint channels dead people, you need to suggest more than the lack is in my knowledge of his work.
 
#39
Spiritualism is an evidence based belief system, not a faith based one, so it's reasonable to set standards for such evidence. Anything that can be acted should be assumed to be exactly that. Ordinary living people pretend to be gangsters, doctors, emperors, in films and TV shows every day, and provide the appropriate voices and demeanour, so we should not be amazed at anyone channelling another personality type, unless that personality offers information that is impossible to ascertain by ordinary means. Ventriloquism is an accepted mode of performance, but we don't believe the dummy is talking. Cold and hot reading aren't impressive, any more than a conjurer producing a card someone has chosen is. We admire the performance, we don't attribute special meaning to it beyond the context. I'm looking for information that is unlikely or impossible to be known by the medium, beyond social niceties and the things we expect of suburban housewives or lonely old ladies or grieving partners. Things out of character with their assumed lifestyle and desires. Such things emerge but they're very, very rare indeed, and we shouldn't put Leslie Flint's work in that category.

If you want to provide evidence that Flint channels dead people, you need to suggest more than the lack is in my knowledge of his work.

Well firstly Flint didn't claim to channel anyone. That's not how Independent Direct Voice Mediumship works. You may be thinking of trance. As far as evidence is concerned, you seem to be ignoring a lot of it. In any event, I don't think Flint was a particularly big fan of Spiritualism or Spiritualists per se.

I have reached my view of Flint based on the evidence I have read about him and conversations with someone who knew him well. Clearly I cannot easily discuss the subject with you if you haven't done the same reading I have. Personally I don't care either way what your view on the subject is, I was trying to give some balance to your comments and maybe help. If that's not of interest to you, that's fine by me.

My observation is that you expressed an opinion on his work with, apparently, very little knowledge of the research carried out on him, or from your comments, how this type of mediumship is claimed to work. That is your prerogative. The background on Flint is as accessible to you as to me if you choose to look at it. If you don't it doesn't bother me at all. If you were interested you could also speak to someone who knew him and actually experienced his mediumship first-hand. If you don't want to, that's all the same to me.

You seemed to have based your view on his work solely on having listened to some recordings you have found online. That's up to you too, but it's not the full picture. If that's good enough for you to reject his work. That's fine too. I really don't care.

I think I've gone as far as I can with this now.
 
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#40
Well firstly Flint didn't claim to channel anyone. That's not how Independent Direct Voice Mediumship works. You may be thinking of trance. As far as evidence is concerned, you seem to be ignoring a lot of it.
Are you claiming the Ellen Terry extract is independent voice phenomena? I'd want to see a heap of evidence for that, especially that it wasn't ventriloquism. I don't believe I'm ignoring anything, I'm submitting it to realistic and reasonable counter claims that make more sense than mediumship, given your lack of any corroborating evidence.

I have reached my view of Flint based on the evidence I have read about him and conversations with someone who knew him well. Clearly I cannot easily discuss the subject with you if you haven't done the same reading I have. Personally I don't care either way what your view on the subject is, I was trying to give some balance to your comments and maybe help. If that's not of interest to you, that's fine by me.
You've made a claim, albeit a tentative one of Flint possessing a prodigious talent. It has nothing to do with whether I'm interested or not - as it happens I am - it's for you to show objectivity in assessing the case. Show me an example from your reading that I've missed some evidence in my appraisal, perhaps?

My observation is that you expressed an opinion on his work with, apparently, very little knowledge of the research carried out on him, or from your comments, how this type of mediumship is claimed to work. That is your prerogative. The background on Flint is as accessible to you as to me if you choose to look at it. If you don't it doesn't bother me at all. If you were interested you could also speak to someone who knew him and actually experienced his mediumship first-hand. If you don't want to, that's all the same to me.
Given how fast the conversation has moved from Flint to my lack of sincerity, I don't believe it's me who lacks objectivity on this topic.

You seemed to have based your view on his work solely on having listened to some recordings you have found online. That's up to you too, but it's not the full picture. If that's good enough for you to reject his work. That's fine too. I really don't care.

I think I've gone as far as I can with this now.
You clearly do care, and you need to convert those convictions into evidence we can all share. You're not presenting Flint as one medium among many, you're suggesting he was unusual. If that's the case you should be able to present a case that hangs on more than the accusation of other peoples' lack of insight.
 
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