QUESTION: What is survival research all about?

ANSWER: Since the late 1800s, parapsychologists have used a number of methods to try to determine whether or not human personality survives the death of the body. One of the more complex such methods involved the "cross correspondence"  research. This was a scheme dreamed up by some of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research before their deaths -- F. W. H. Myers, Edmund Gurney, and Henry Sidgwick. These men were all classical scholars, well aware of the relative lack of education of most of the psychics of the time. Their plan was purportedly put into action AFTER they died. It involved passing on a series of complex literary messages (often in Latin and Greek) as automatic writing and channeled information through different mediums between 1901 and 1930. These messages only made sense when the they were combined together. The idea was that it showed intentionality on the part of the spirits that were communicating, and contained information and languages that would not have been known or understood by the mediums and could therefore not have simply come from their unconscious minds.

Today, although some investigators like Gary Schwartz (see his book, The Afterlife Experiments) still try to prove survival through checking the accuracy of mediums purportedly passing on messages from the dead, most survival research involves instrumental transcommunication phenomena (ITC). ITC is the supposed communication (whether as writing, audio, or pictures) by discarnate spirits. It can occur through a variety of electronic and related equipment, including tape recorders, telephones, faxes, radios, televisions, and computers. Often these sounds and images are not heard or seen at the time of original recording, but only appear later. It was previously sometimes referred to as electronic voice phenomena (EVP) or Raudive phenomena. The process may involve the mediumistic abilities of the living human operators.

ITC is another small but growing area of PK research. It was originated after voices purported to have come from the deceased, which were not audible at the time of recording, were later heard on the magnetic tape playback. Raymond Bayless and Attila von Szalay are said to have been the first to formally report these phenomena in 1956. A few years later Swedish film producer Friedrich Juergenson began working in the field, when, by chance, he heard what he thought was his deceased mother's voice in the background of a tape he was making of birds singing in the woods. He later published a book, Radio Contact with the Dead, which inspired Latvian psychologist Konstantin Raudive to enter the field.

The words made audible on tape are generally pronounced in an unmistakably uniform way, regardless of the language used. Identification of the voices is, nevertheless, often a remarkably difficult task. Raudive often obtained names and sentence fragments, which he documented at length in his book, Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead.

Locher and Harsch-Fischbach noted that the earliest documented recorded ITC may have occurred in 1902, when Waldemar Bogoras found spirit voices on a phonograph recording. Other early methods included by telegraph and radio. Rogo and Bayless even devoted an entire book to phone calls that people said they had received from the dead. However, the vast majority of early ITC work was done with ordinary tape recorders. Although some of the sounds that appeared were difficult to decipher, others were very clear-cut and recognizably belongs to deceased individuals.

Recent years have seen ITC involved all forms of format—including on telephones, faxes, computers, printers, VCRs, camcorders,  and other equipment. Despite this diversity of methods for obtaining ITC, some investigators, such as Al Rauber and Chris Fleming in the United States, work to capture ghosts on audiotape—sometimes comparing what is found on the recording with what psychics and others were simultaneously picking up on as happening in the room, with some truly amazing results. This use of ITC as a simultaneous adjunct to other methods of investigation is growing in popularity and would seem to be an ideal application of the field.

A number of researchers have commented on the fact that they believe spirit beings are actively working to try to improve communication with the living. The purported beings on the 'other side' often refer to the importance of the operator's mediumistic ability for successful transcommunication. Thus, there appears to be an aspect of mind-matter interaction (MMI) involvement, either on the part of the sender or the receiver, which is directly affecting the instrument being used for communication, whether magnetic tape, television, computer, or other. Unfortunately, it is impossible to call ITC 'proof' of the survival of bodily death since we cannot differentiate human PK from that of discarnate sources.

Finally, some of the strongest supporting evidence for survival comes from the reincarnation research performed by Ian Stevenson and others. They have done in-depth studies of children in unindustrialized countries, where there is a lack of television, mass media, or easy transportation (thus limiting other, more ordinary means of them finding out this information). They have found instances where these young children have known not only the names and stories of their previous families (later verified by the researchers), been able to correctly identify photos of those individuals (whom they had never met), had birthmarks related to their manner of death, and even sometimes been able to speak entire languages that they had never been taught (and which their family knew nothing of). For more information on this work, please check out Stevenson's book Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation.

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