I’ve found articles about this rather new event searching the Internet for Pandido Khambo Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov. I wrote that article about his preserved mummified body in 2007 and it was exciting to learn that a recent discovery in Mongolia found a mummified body even older than that of Pandido Khambo Lama Itigilov.
The body is thought to be about 200 years old but doesn’t show much signs of decay. It was found under an animal skin. Most probably the person, a monk, passed out during meditation and his body has stayed mummified, for some reason. Again, this case is somewhat similar to the case of the Siberian Lama.
The photograph below is of this body. The monk was found somewhere in Songinokhairkhan province, near the city of Ulaanbaatar, in central Mongolia. The original source appears to be a Mongolian News site “The morning news”, or “Өглөөний сонин”. It can be found here (not in English).
In What is the best kind of evidence of afterlife I wrote that EVP is one of the more interesting areas of research, though not one widely discussed, for some reason.
The short explanation of what EVP is – these are recordings, usually audio, of voices that seemingly couldn’t be produced by any means other than paranormal. Thus it’s named “Electronic Voice Phenomena”. The stronger evidence is provided by the recording of messages relevant to those who hear it, like it would be through a human medium. There appear to be cases of visual EVP as well, such as recordings on VCRs and such.
One of the more prominent people who researched EVP was the Latvian-born Dr. Konstantin Raudive. He recorded thousands of EVP messages and, after he passed, was the messenger to his fellow researchers in their EVP experiments.
There’s a fascinating documentary work-in-progress available online at “Calling Earth (July 2014 Version)”. Note, it’s about 1h 15m in length, so set some time aside.
Also, there’s an ongoing Kickstarter campaign now where the producer wants to set up a very rigorous EVP experiment and record the whole process. It includes a short but interesting personal introductory video, with some of the campaigner’s own experience there. Check it out and consider donating at The Afterlife Files
There’s also a good overview of the history of EVP at the Anomalist.
To those who’ve been following this site over the years, it’s no secret that I’ve been a devoted listener of the Skeptiko podcast and have also interviewed Alex Tsakiris, a couple of times. As such, it was very interesting for me to read a book that summarizes his journey.
I’ve actually published the review of this book, “Why Science is Wrong… About Almost Everything” on Amazon first, so in order not to repeat myself here, head over to read the review on Amazon. And don’t worry, my review is not long.
Life after death, or afterlife, is something that people in history of the world took for granted. With the advancement of science and atheism, this belief has been replaced by the materialistic world view which explains that death is the end.
I’m not a historian, neither am I an anthropologist, but I assume that even today more people in the world believe in some kind of afterlife. Yes, these are mostly people following some kind of religion, and thus their belief in afterlife is just that – a belief.
Being more scientifically inclined, and not being raised in a religious family, I’m not taking the claims brought by them at face value. Instead, I’m searching for more substantial evidence.
So what kinds of evidence are there for the afterlife? Well, there’s mediumship, and various related phenomena like automatic writing, for example. I have no personal experience with this, and reading about seances doesn’t sound convincing enough for me. I do have a relative who had a strongly convincing experience with a medium, but I wasn’t there and don’t know all the details, so this doesn’t count either.
Another well-known claim in favour of afterlife is brought forth by Near-Death Experiences (NDE). I assume most people heard of it. There are some very compelling, or at least interesting NDE accounts. And there are very many of them. Some studies were and are being conducted on this topic. In general, NDEs do appear to suggest some kind of continuation of consciousness after bodily death. But what could be even more compelling?
“Death-Bed Visions” is another contender. I don’t think it’s an established acronym. Don’t know why, it has three letter after all. Probably not that known. Anyway, a new term for this was coined by Raymond Moody, the famous author of “Life after Life” — Shared NDEs. Shared NDEs is when a non-dying person is experiencing the passing away of another one, close to him, physically or emotionally. These are interesting in that they happen not to people who are dying themselves, i.e. their bodies are not malfunctioning. There is a recent article about this, published on CNN, Beyond Goodbye.
Is there some kind of an even more objective evidence for the afterlife? Well, there might just be. And it even has a 3-letter acronym – EVP. EVP stands for Electronic Voice Phenomenon. It’s usually a recording of some words or phrases on analog or digital voice recorders that have no other technical explanations and are usually related to the people who record them. They often even sound close to the (deceased) persons from whom they appear to be coming, both in the sound of voice and in choice of words and phrases. They are also often relevant or otherwise specific. Oh, in rare cases there are even photographic phenomena, although these do not seem to be the focus of most researchers.
EVP, being more technological and objective, looks like one the stronger candidates to me. There are not just stories, there are recordings which you can here.
Next time, I’ll link to some interesting resources on EVP.
What is the best kind of evidence for the existence of afterlife for you?
I’m starting to “attend” a virtual classroom parapsychology course, “Parapsychology and Anomalistic Psychology: Research and Education“.
The course is led and taught by leading researchers in the field, including Nancy Zingrone, Carlos S. Alvarado, Roger Nelson and many more.
The course is free and lasts six weeks. It’ll have live sessions but can also be watched later. It starts today, January 5th.
There are about 650 people registered from all over the world.
It’s gonna be interesting.
The below text is posted verbatim from a request for research participant that I received from Andrew Hodrien, Research Assistant at Nottingham Trent University.
Request for research participants
Have you had one or more Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs) in which it seems as if your sense of self or consciousness has become separated from your physical body? These experiences can occur under a variety of conditions. If you have experienced one or more OBEs we are interested to hear from you about your experience(s). This research is being carried out at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and is being conducted by me, Andrew Hodrien (Research Assistant – my contact details can be found at the end of this message) and the project is being supervised by Dr David Wilde.
The aim of this research is to develop an OBE ‘screening’ scale which will be able to more precisely identify whether someone has had an OBE. At present no such tool exists for OBEs. Our research is not testing your experience in relation to psychological variables as is commonly done in OBE research, but instead explores the content of the experience itself to better understand it and differentiate it from other experiences.
To do this we would like your help by asking you if you would fill in an online questionnaire anonymously about the individual aspects of one of your OBEs. Your inclusion of this experience is important as it will contribute to the development of the scale. You can access the questionnaire by clicking on the link below.
The questionnaire includes full information on the study to enable you to decide whether or not to participate and offers a general definition of the OBE.
The inclusion criteria for this study (aside from your experience fitting our definition) are:
- You have no known organic condition which causes you to be prone to visual hallucinations
- You are able to provide informed consent
- You are over 18 years old
- You are able to provide a short written account of your OBE in English
- You are able to recall all of the OBE you wish to tell us about (i.e. not just give a partial account of it)
You won’t need to note these down but please only participate if you can agree with these criteria.
The survey can be completed by clicking the link below:
Closing date of the survey is: 31st July 2014 at 23:50 (GMT)
If you wish to find out more about the survey, or wish to take part and have any queries, please contact me by emailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading this and we hope to hear from you,
Nottingham Trent University
I’ve written quite a lot of articles in the past about different Studies related to the benefits of meditation:
That being said, none of the articles that I ever wrote come close to the fabulous summary posted on the blog of Jon Lieff, MD. His article, Meditation and the Brain 2013, presents detailed but approachable overview of the latest scientific research into the benefits of meditation, Tai Chi and yoga.
The benefits of these practices span a wide spectrum of human activity, such as physical health, mental health, dealing with pain and creativity.
While you’re there on his site, make sure to read other articles which summarize recent research, such as Animal Intelligence Update 2013.
In this fall semester, the Rhine Research Center offers two online courses in parapsychology:
- The Wandering Mind: Out of Body and Near Death Experiences
- Premonitions and Precognition
The courses are taught by Drs. Nancy L. Zingrone and Carlos S. Alvarado. Both courses are 8-week long and cost $199 each ($179 for Rhine members and students).
The courses are both really interesting and touch the subjects that are so often discussed in the Skeptiko podcast and in its forum. Maybe I should enroll myself.
Check the videos below for more information or check the following page: http://www.rhineeducationcenter.org/edu/
Today I’m glad to present interview with Annalisa Ventola. I first got to know her through her blog, Public Parapsychology. These days she’s the Executive Director of the Parapsychological Association. This interview was taken over email.
Annalisa, could you please tell our readers about yourself.
I am a the Executive Director of the Parapsychological Association, an associate member of the Center for Research on Consciousness and Anomalous Psychology at Lund University, Sweden, and the founder of Public Parapsychology, a web log devoted to promoting public scholarship in the fields of parapsychology and anomalous psychology.
I'm also a composer, performer, and music teacher. I have a small, private studio of 20-30 young pianists who see me once a week for tutoring. I also perform original piano/vocal music around Columbus, Ohio and have an EP album in development (http://www.annalisaventola.com/).
Could you describe the Parapsychological Association, how does it differ from other psi research associations (SPR, for example)
The Parapsychological Association is a professional association of scientists and scholars engaged in the study of psi (or 'psychic') experiences, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition. The PA is similar to the structure of other kinds of professional academic associations, but unique in the types of members that it attracts and the programs that it offers.
Our professional membership is primarily made up of college and university professors, clinicians, counselors, and independent researchers who engage in psi research. The PA supports their work with publications like the Journal of Parapsychology and the Mindfield Bulletin, research grants, yearly awards and annual conventions. Additionally, the PA publishes a set of ethical standards by which our professional members abide.
What do you do at Parapsychological Association?
I am responsible for implementing the PA Board's plans and policies, managing general operations, recruiting and supervising staff and volunteers, conducting the official correspondence of the PA and communicating with PA membership and the general public.
What about your own research?
Lately my personal research efforts have taken a back seat to the PA's administrative needs, but prior to working for the PA, I was doing field research on haunting and poltergeist experiences. I assisted Devin Terhune and James Houran in a large-scale study that was funded by the Society for Scientific Exploration's Young Investigators Program (http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/jse_21_1_terhune.pdf). It was a double-blind field study that investigated the physical characteristics of a reputedly haunted residence compared to the thoroughly "unhaunted" residence next door. Positive results from that study had me spending several years pursuing the question of how to evaluate photographic anomalies and work with expert consultants (The Parapsychological Association, Inc. 52nd Annual Convention Abstracts of Presented Papers – page 23).
More recently, I've worked with fellow parapsychologist Bryan Williams on several self-published primers created to assist paranormal enthusiasts in adopting parapsychological methods in their own field investigations. Each of our primers contains a thorough literature review on the topic under study followed by tips on how to put the knowledge from previous research into practice. So far we've covered temperature, magnetism, apparitional experiences, and poltergeist phenomena. The primers can be downloaded at http://www.annalisaventola.com/research/.
Please tell about the PA conferences. Who is the target audience? What interesting events or lectures took place at previous ones?
The annual convention of the Parapsychological Association – now in its 56th year – is where the parapsychological community comes together to present and discuss the latest research developments taking place in universities and private laboratories around the world. The target audience is generally academic, though the event is always open to the public.
At our last PA convention in Durham, North Carolina, two events come to mind as particularly interesting. One was a workshop chaired by Dr. Athena Drewes titled "Understanding and Responding to Child and Adult Psi Experiences". The workshop focused on the recognizing the differences between healthy and unhealthy paranormal experiences and how clinical parapsychologists can assist the mental health system in "de-pathologizing psi".
The other event was the annual J.B. Rhine address, which was given by Prof. Thomas Robisheaux of Duke University in Durham. Prof. Robisheaux is a historian and an engaging storyteller. In his address, he used the story of Psyche and Eros as an allegory for the major turning points in the study parapsychological phenomena. The way he weaved these threads together was quite brilliantly done.
Duke University history professsor Thomas Robisheaux, Ph.D., discusses ‘Looking for Psyche: Historical Reflections on Parapsychology, Psychical Research, and the Anomalous Experience’ at PA’s Annual Convention.
What do you look forward to in the upcoming conference in Viterbo?
Right now what I'm looking forward to most is the accommodations and the food! I've been tracking Ora Domus La Quercia on Facebook and their food pictures make me salivate. I love to eat new foods when I travel and I can't wait to sample their fare.
The PA program Committee is still at work on the program, and until they are done I won't be able to say much more about what is happening at the Viterbo convention. However, Dr. Simon Thorpe has been invited to deliver the J.B. Rhine address this year. He is the research director of the Brain and Cognitive Research Center (CerCo) at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Toulouse, France. He will be speaking on the possible implications of psi for cognitive neuroscience and thinking about the nature of mind and consciousness. This should be a very interesting talk.
What do you wish that people knew about parapsychology?
I wish that more people understood that parapsychology is an academic discipline and that in some parts of the world it is fully integrated in the university system. For example, in the United Kingdom there are 16 universities involved in teaching and/or researching parapsychology or anomalistic psychology. Anomalistic psychology is on the pre-university (A-level) psychology syllabus. And in 2010, the government-funded Higher Education Academy (HEA) organized a meeting for academics teaching parapsychology, which helped to firmly establish parapsychology and anomalistic psychology as legitimate sub-disciplines of psychology within UK academia.
Why does psi research have a hard time to be accepted in the mainstream science, in your opinion?
I would argue that psi research has already been accepted into mainstream science, even if its results remain controversial. The Parapsychological Association has been an affiliated organization of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science since 1969, which gives parapsychologists a forum to present their research findings to the larger scientific community. And as recently as 2011, the AAAS hosted a symposium titled "Quantum Retrocausation: Theory and Experiment" where several PA professional members were invited to speak.
2011 also saw the publication of Daryl Bem's "Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect" in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology – a paper that presented positive evidence for precognition in a high impact journal with a circulation of over 1300 subscribers.
Mindfield: The Bulletin of the Parapsychological Association hosts a regular column by PA Vice President Gerd Hövelmann titled "Articles Relevant to Parapsychology in the Journals of Various Fields." The latest installment of this bibliography has brought the total number of references to 715 articles since its inception in 2009.
These kinds of developments suggest to me that when it comes to mainstream science, parapsychology has already been given a seat at the table. However, science is far from an objective enterprise. Just like any system that attempts to establish truth or knowledge, scientific research is vulnerable to one's self-limiting beliefs, cultural assumptions, and organizational politics, as well as governmental and general socioeconomic concerns. Despite all that, scientists can -and should – at least aspire to objectivity, and many of my colleagues do this exceptionally well.
What do you think about the discussion that took place on TED site regarding the talks of Rupert Sheldrake?
The TED-Sheldrake controversy was heart breaking for me because prior to that I was a huge fan of TED talks. My husband and I recently purchased a smart TV with an app that brought TED talks directly to our television, and when all of that went down, I was positively addicted – watching at least 4-5 TED lectures per day. Since then, mine and TED's "bad breakup" has been a running joke with my friends.
Previous to the controversy, I had been under the impression that TED had a balanced approach to popularizing scientific and scholarly research, not just from the my initial engagement with their Sheldrake and Hancock talks, but after seeing excellent talks by people like Jeffrey Kripal and Cassandra Vieten among others. But there came a point when TED Conferences, LLC attempted to demonstrate that they were in the position to demarcate between science and pseudoscience. Their boilerplate criticisms – which had very little correspondence to the actual content of Sheldrake's talk – suggested to me that they were not up for the task. Fortunately, the incident has only shed more light on the valuable work of parapsychologists and consciousness researchers around the world. This has resulted in even wider support for the work that we do.
Where do you see parapsychology 10 years from now? 50 years?
Information technology is changing quickly and professional organizations like the PA have had to adapt to keep up. More and more, consumers of scientific research are demanding that organizations provide free and open access to their resources online. However, maintaining the quality of those resources requires a staff – editors, managers, proofers, etc.- and those resources are generally require funding. Just about every academic organization is facing this problem right now. Those who can effectively navigate the transition will be leading the organizations that flourish 10 years from now.
I'm encouraged to find students who are organizing their efforts to fill in some of the gaps as information technology expands. Recently we've seen freely available publications like Paranthropology and the Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychology emerge – publications founded by PA Student Members – with PA Professional Members occasionally contributing. The youth of the field are shaping new digital technologies and making them available to more established professionals. It may sound cliché to say that the youth are our future, but I see something unusual happening here.
The digital age is also bringing together the Western/Eastern and Northern/Southern hemispheres, and as researchers from different continents continue to network with each other, new terminology and new metaphors for understanding consciousness and explaining psi phenomena will emerge. At this point, parapsychology is very much a Western science – which is rooted in Western ways of thinking and Western concepts of self. But over the years, more and more Asian and South American researchers have been joining our ranks. Just recently, the PA has welcomed its first Arabic-speaking Professional Member. And for the last two years, the PA has been guided by our first South American President.
Fifty years from now, we can look forward to parapsychology developing into a multi-cultural science – less encumbered by limitations of a single worldview and thus more aware of our own assumptions. This blending of worldviews will bolster our aspirations toward objectivity – even if the results of our studies suggest that there may be no such thing.
My sincere gratitude to Annalisa for taking the time to answer my questions. Make sure to take a look at her blog, the PA web site and its conference.
Skeptiko podcast host, Alex Tsakiris had started his public journey into the world of psi research in January 2007. I had the opportunity to interview him about 5 months after he had started.
Six years and about 200 fantastic episodes later, Alex has agreed to a follow-up interview.
Despite starting the podcast without taking a position, just 5 months later you seemed to side with proponents of psi. I've got the feeling that in the following years you've established even firmly in the proponents camp. Is this where "following the data", as you love to say, led you?
Short answer — yes. My biggest surprise was discovering how weak the skeptical arguments against psi were. You hear these skeptical talking points like, "100 years of nothing", "pseudoscience", "lack of experiential controls", and it sounds like there's a raging scientific debate. But when I drilled into it I found very, very little substance to the Skeptical position.
Revisiting our previous interview reminded me that back then you had this initiative called Open Source Science. You wanted to duplicate some psi experiments, starting with the famous "Dogs that know" experiment of Rupert Sheldrake. I know you've done some work on it, but the project seems dead now. Even the web site redirects to Skeptiko.com. What happened to this initiative? Do you plan to conduct any experiments in the future?
I guess this kinda gets back to question 1 in that when I started out I thought there was a real scientific debate. I naively thought that more data would make a difference. Over time I came to understand that for most folks it's not about the data, it's about preserving their worldview.
Also, on a practical level, I found out how hard it is to do decent research. I spent a couple years and several thousand dollars on the "Dogs that Know" experiments. I even teamed up with some researchers at the University of Florida. We definitely observed some dogs that knew when their owners were coming home, but turning that into a viable research project was much harder than I expected.
You also had an idea to do a movie. What happened to that?
The good thing about movies is that you can always say you're still working on it… yea, I'll go with that
The podcast touched on many subjects related to parapsychology, including NDE research, nature of consciousness, ESP research, mediumship, religion, and even UFOs. Today, what do you firmly believe in regarding these topics. What you don't believe is true? Where are you still truly skeptical?
That's what Skeptiko is all about… so you gotta listen to find out
In some of the older episodes you told about your personal experience with medium readings and even an OBE (am I right?). What did these personal experience teach you?
My personal experience with medium readings demonstrated the reality of anomalous communication. As to the source of that communication, the simplest expatiation is survival of consciousness. I never was able to make it out of my body — lucid dreaming is as far as I got
I wonder how all that you've learned in these 6 years affected your personal life, your beliefs about the world, your relationships with friends and family. Can you share any of this?
The shift has been quite dramatic. I've become convinced that the evidence for survival of consciousness is overwhelming. I try to live that reality every day. Of course, "try" is the operative word… not sure my wife and kids think I try hard enough
Are there any people whom you wanted to interview but couldn't?
There are some Skeptics I would love to talk to, but these guys only do science interviews with folks that agree with them. I've found fundamentalist Christians are more open to debate than Skeptics.
You loved to talk about the "paradigm shift" in science, in which the mainstream scientific community will accept the existence of psi and divert more resources into the research and understanding the implications. Do you notice any such shifts in mainstream science in the last years?
Not really. Maybe a little more openness, but that's it. I don't think a system like the one we have that is totally enmeshed in materialism can bootstrap itself out of it.
Related to the previous question, from time to time there'll come out some books or some really interesting cases that reach the mass media, like "Proof of Heaven" book by Dr. Eben Alexander, whom you interviewed twice. the book was a bestseller and the person appeared all over mass media in the US. Yet again, it doesn't seem to move the scientific community interest in this topic. Why is that? What will it take to bring this paradigm shift?
I think most people are quite comfortable with this artificial, and fundamentally bizarre, divide we've created between "science" and "religion".
While the scientific community still remains mainly skeptical, it sometimes feels that there is much more openness on these topics in the general public. Perhaps the recent controversy over the TEDx talks of Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock is a good example. It appears that the public reaction to the banning of these talks, as could be seen on TED's discussion forums on them, was not one-sided. In fact, the number of commenters in favor of these talks was impressive. What does this teach us?
That the wrongheadedness of this biological-robot silliness is self-evident to anyone willing to look with an open mind.
You seem to have succeeded to create quite a vibrant community over the Skeptiko forums. Discussions between proponents and skeptics are usually conducted in a civilized manner. And if not, moderators take care of it, bringing the discussions back on track. Personally, reading fascinating accounts of the personal experiences of different members of the community makes me wonder why some people still have doubts in the validity of psi and extended consciousness. What have you learned from the community?
I learned a lot from this wonderful community that you've been so much a part of creating… thank you by the way
What podcasts do you regularly listen to?
What are your plans for the future of Skeptiko?
In some ways I feel like a bit of a slow learner I mean, a lot of the stuff I've learned through Skeptiko has been out there, and in many cases known to me, for quite some time. So, why did it take me so long to come around? Maybe I'm more like the skeptics I rail against than I'd like to admit… married to a worldview… unwilling to give up my illusion of control.
I guess the future of Skeptiko will be driven by the misconceptions I'm willing to let go of? I guess we'll find out together.
Any closing words
Thx for doing this interview Jacob. And thx for being such an important part of Skeptiko… from the very beginning.