Near Death—Afterword

One of the things we hope to achieve with the portrayal of all things psychic/paranormal in the Raney & Daye Investigations series is a sense of reality. In other words, my involvement in the series includes making sure the elements of psychic phenomena, abilities, and experiences ring true – even if we have to take some artistic license for the sake of the story.

We also hope that our readers will want to look further into what’s portrayed with respect to the paranormal phenomena, to parapsychology (the field that studies such things) and to paranormal investigations.

One place we’ll likely have to take more liberties with would be what happens in the actual investigations of ghostly and psychic experiences, as often real investigations don’t include the investigators getting to witness or experience things themselves – and contrary to the paranormal “reality” TV shows, there are no devices that can detect ghosts (other than human ones).

For each of our novels, you’ll find some additional material after the story that will be informative on the parapsychological elements of the book or related concepts. As the resident parapsychologist of this author team (helmed exceptionally well by Rich Hosek, the main crafter and writer of the novel), it’s up to me to provide this.

But first, a bit of commentary on Jennifer Daye, anthropologist-parapsychologist-magician.

Many people may be surprised to learn that those who are officially in the scientific organization of those studying psychic/paranormal phenomena, the Parapsychological Association (the PA), have backgrounds in a variety of social and physical sciences. As there have been very limited opportunities anywhere in the world to get a graduate degree in Parapsychology itself (none since the late 1980s in the US), parapsychologists with rare exception have other advanced degrees. A large number of the PA members have theirs in psychology, but others come from graduate studies in physics, anthropology (like Jennifer), biology, sociology, neuroscience, and even medical sciences.

While I was fortunate, timing-wise, to be able to get a Master’s degree in Parapsychology in the early 1980s when John F. Kennedy University (as of 2021, merged into National University) had such a program, my undergrad studies/degree at Northwestern University focused on Cultural Anthropology – and much of my coursework was focused on magic and supernatural beliefs around the world.

Anthropologist Jennifer Daye is also portrayed as a skilled stage magician, with professional experience in that area. Most in the general public – and in the magician community -- would be hard-pressed to think of any magician associated with the psychic world other than ones calling themselves “debunkers” and “skeptics.” But the reality is that there have been others in and around parapsychology with magical knowledge and performing experience, including Dr. Daryl Bem, and the late Dr. Arthur Hastings and Dr. Marcello Truzzi. And me.

Again, Jennifer’s character taps into my own background a bit. I got into Magic because of a graduate course included in our Master’s Parapsychology program focused on basic principles of magic and mentalism (that’s mind-reading type stuff) to prepare students for assessing people’s psychic claims. Turned out I enjoyed not only learning about it but also performing (especially being paid for performing). I spent the 1980s doing magic at private parties and comedy magic at comedy clubs and corporate events. Around 1990, I was steered to mentalism by Marcello Truzzi and have been in that arena ever since, performing as Professor Paranormal and becoming active in the Psychic Entertainers Association, an international organization for which I’m proud to say I served several years as President. I have performed for college and corporate/business audiences, for private parties, and even performed as part of a bill with a couple of professional spirit mediums.

Performing mentalism/psychic entertainment (and magic) has given me a real grounding in understanding how people can honestly misinterpret what they perceive and experience. It’s given me insight into how and why some people who aren’t psychic have been convinced that they are, and how phonies convince their clientele that they have “powers.” But mainly it has allowed me to separate actual psychic experiences and phenomena from the explainable – just like Jennifer Daye.

Enough about me and Jennifer. Let’s talk paranormal.

In the book you just read (or are about to read, if you’re the kind of person who jumps to the back matter first) there are three main psychic phenomena involved (spoilers!!!): Near-Death Experiences (NDE) which often include the Out of Body Experience (OBE) as in Nate’s experience, and the experiences of the ghostly kind, what we refer to as Apparitions.

But first, in case you’re not aware (or have been misled by so many of the paranormal reality TV shows), a little bit on Parapsychology. Lots of dictionary definitions say the field studies experiences and phenomena currently unexplained by mainstream science. That doesn’t say much of anything at all.

Parapsychology is the field of study of experiences and apparent phenomena we call “psychic” or “paranormal.” These include three major areas: ExtraSensory Perception (information perception outside of the use of our normal senses, logic inference, or guesswork), PsychoKinesis (the mind directly interacting with/acting on the physical world without the use of the body or tools) and Survival of Bodily Death (the mind – consciousness – surviving the death of the body). Back in the 1930s, J.B. Rhine put all of that under the term psi – the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet, representing psyche (the mind).

In simple terms, we study experiences and phenomena indicating our consciousness can gain information without the physical senses (ESP), can interact/influence the physical (PK) and can exist after the brain has died (Survival).

The term paranormal has been in use since the 19th century to cover it all. It simply means “on the side of normal.” Unfortunately, the TV ghost hunters have separated ghostly happenings (apparitions, hauntings, and poltergeists) from other psychic experiences and phenomena (ESP and PK) and have often put forth the notion that these are unrelated things – which is untrue.

ESP is involved in any situation in which someone “sees” a ghost or communicates with an ostensible spirit. Ghosts (apparitions) have no physical eyes and ears to see and hear, so would have to perceive with a non-sensory process (ESP) – and if they move stuff, that’s mind over matter (PK). If someone is “out” of their body, they are missing those physical senses, and so would have to perceive with non-sensory processes (ESP).

OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCES (OBE)

An OBE is the sensation or experience many people have of actually leaving their body for a time. In more "occult" language, this is called "astral projection," where the spirit or soul or “astral body” actually leaves the physical body.

Keep in mind that at the base of the definition is the experience, the feeling that you've left your body. I can feel happy, or sad, or detached, or have an experience of feeling as if I'd left my body. This might be considered an OBE, yet this isn't psychic -- it's psychological. Only when you add in such factors as "going" somewhere out of body, observing that location or person, and checking the information out later for accuracy (and it does check out) can you term it a psychic out of body experience. Much like what happens to Nate during his near-death experience.

Many experienced OBE practitioners also feel that their soul or spirit does not actually leave the body, but rather that part of the mind or consciousness can split off and travel. According to the late Alex Tanous, a psychic involved in OBE studies at the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) for many years, if his soul had left his body, he'd have died. (His death was not, by the way, from an out of body venture.)

One of the interesting categories of apparition (ghost) encounters is that sometimes the “ghost” that is seen is actually a living person having an out of body experience.

NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE (NDE)

In the near death experience, a person declared clinically dead for a time (or close to it) reports leaving his or her body, perhaps even observing the location and people around the now dead body, then rising up through a sort of tunnel towards a light of some kind. A voice or even a familiar figure (typically a deceased family member or friend, or a religious figure) is seen or heard at the end of the tunnel. The person having the experience is either told it is not yet his or her time or decides that it is not yet time to die. In any event, the body is resuscitated, and the person finds himself or herself back in the body, with a recollection of that near death process. For those who have had such an experience, there is often a lasting impact on their beliefs and personal outlook on life, often on their personality, and sometimes on their ability to manifest psychic abilities.

Many cultures, from Hindus in India to folks in Iceland to people here in the States have similar experiences, many involving that same image of the tunnel and the bright light. In 1991, I visited Japan for a television program that was broadcast on the Tokyo Broadcasting System. The topic of NDEs was a large part of the show (which centered on the reported experiences and abilities of Japanese psychic Aiko Gibo). What I learned was that the Japanese experience involves not a tunnel, but rather a river. There is no particularly bright light, because the one experiencing the NDE essentially crosses the river in "sunshine," and walks down a flower lined path, often with another person (an ancestor or other interested party). As with the tunnel NDE, the person is either told to go back or offered the choice and returns to life.

This discrepancy in experiences is quite interesting, given that diverse cultural and religious beliefs of others (Icelanders, Americans, Hindus, etc.) has not previously made a difference. This river NDE throws a monkey wrench in the explanations some have given for a more physical, biological cause of the NDE – though it’s extremely important to note that a large percentage of people declared clinically dead do not have an impactful near-death experience (or even the tunnel/river experience at all) and one or more of the various physical/neurological alternate explanations are more likely at play.

APPARITIONS

My definition of an apparition, or what most people call a “ghost” or spirit of the dead, is what is perceived in ways that seem like it’s being seen, heard, felt, or smelled. Apparitions are related to the concept of human personality/mind/soul – consciousness - that can somehow exist in our physical universe after the death of its body (or out of body when we’re still alive). The basic idea of an apparition is twofold: that consciousness must survive the body’s physical death and it must be able to interact with people.

When I say that the apparition is "seen" or "heard," I don't mean that this is happening through the eyes or ears. Let’s remember that our actual perception of the world around us involves a process whereby data is received by the senses, then screened and enhanced by the brain and mind. Perception resides not in the senses, but in the brain (or consciousness itself). Hallucinations, for example, are essentially superimposed images, sounds, smells, etc., that are added to (or in other instances blocked or erased from) the information of our senses.

In the same way, the apparition somehow "adds" information to our sensory input that is then processed with our what our senses pull in and integrated into what we perceive. In other words, the mind of the apparition is providing our own minds with the extra information necessary to perceive the discarnate entity – to “see” and “hear” with our mind’s-eye and mind’s-ear.

There isn’t anything optical about ghosts or hauntings, nor do they make physical sounds to be heard, or touch you with some physical extremity. Those that experience ghosts in various ways perceive them in ways that seem sensory but are actually extra-sensory. And if a ghost were to move something, since they have no physical body, that would have to be via the mind of the entity affecting the physical – the very definition of PK.

What distinguishes an apparition from what I'll cover next, hauntings, is the interaction, some sign that the apparition is conscious.

HAUNTINGS

Hauntings, or what ghost hunters on TV refer to as “residual hauntings,” are more familiar to people in that many often experience some form of this throughout their lives. The term now refers to situations in which a person perceives something about a location or object (sees, hears, smells, feels – perceives -- something) without there being anything physically there. The observer might see a figure that appears and disappears or hear footsteps or other sounds that seem to indicate someone is physically present or even smell odors that have no apparent source. Others may simply feel something -- good or bad “vibes” -- about the location. These situations are often confused with apparitions, but what is missing is the interaction.

What operationally distinguishes the apparition from the haunting is the idea that an apparition is conscious, whereas the figure seen in a haunting is some form of "recording" in the environment. Today, many parapsychologists believe that hauntings relate directly to the past of the location or the history of the object. Like a voice or video recorder records information that can be played back (audio and/ or visual), a house, an object, a location, etc. somehow records all the things that have happened in its history. That can be recent or old history.

Under certain conditions, we (that is, living people) can somehow "play back" bits of this recorded history within our own minds. In some way, our brains/minds superimpose this historical playback over our own normal perceptions, so that it, too, seems quite real. What is played back (the event, the recording) may be a random piece of information, or, more often, a happening that has been “imprinted" into the environment with a good deal of emotion.

Most important to understand is the point that the dead don’t make these “recordings” (or “imprints” as many refer to them). The actions and emotions of the living are what gets recorded into the environment, and whether someone has died at the location is totally irrelevant.

Another way to understand this factor is to consider movies from the 1940s. All of the actors in those films were alive when the movies were made. Most (but not necessarily all) are likely deceased by now. However, people have been able to watch those movies with those actors since they were released, whether the actors were living or dead. In the same way, hauntings are recordings of emotions and actions made by the living, whether those who made the imprints are still alive or not.

Consequently, just like there are apparitions of the living (when people are seen during an OBE) there are hauntings representing the living. The figures, voices, odors perceived by witnesses can represent people still very much alive. Hauntings are about information in places (and sometimes objects), not about spirits of the dead.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Lastly I want to mention a few organizations that provide excellent, scientific (and practical) information about psychic phenomena and experiences such as what Raney & Daye encounter in this book (and will encounter in future investigation).

Rhine Research Center: www.rhine.org

The longest running lab and educational organization in the United States, this is the legacy of the Duke University Parapsychology Laboratory founded in the 1930s. The Rhine has a huge media library – videos of lectures by researchers, psychics, and others presented over the last few years. There are a few that are free, but you are encouraged to join, not only to gain access to the media library and get discounts on webcasts of new lectures and discounts on classes and other things, but mainly to help support the work of the Rhine.

The Rhine Education Center (www.rhineedu.org) offers online courses throughout the year (Loyd Auerbach is one of the main instructors).

The Society for Psychical Research: www.spr.ac.uk

The SPR is the oldest psychical research/parapsychology organization, founded in 1882. Lots of good info here for free, especially the Psi Encyclopedia (https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/ ) – an ever-growing resource on psychic abilities and research.

The Forever Family Foundation: www.foreverfamilyfoundation.org

Free to join, this non-profit supports the work of evidential mediums in the family grieving process and supports scientific research into experiences suggestive or supportive of the concept of Survival of Consciousness (and Loyd Auerbach is the President)

— Loyd Auerbach, MS—October 1, 2020

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