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8/02/06

Should I change the title on the navigation bar on the home page from "Update" to "Blog"? It might get more attention that way...naw.

Did you happen to catch a recent episode of "Antiques Road Show" on PBS? A woman had brought in what I thought was a horrifically tacky life sized bronze garden statue of a naked toddler holding two poor turtles upside down by the feet, named the "Turtle Baby." And she told the story, that her mother (as I recall) had seen this piece in a museum and had fallen in love with it. You know how people get obsessed with something...she had pictures of it in her home, it was "Turtle Baby" this and "Turtle Baby" that...

Years pass, and one day her father packs everyone in the car, destination unknown, and they go to Chicago, I think it was, and everybody is wondering what's going on. They stop, and he leads them all into an art gallery, and there is something there under a sheet. The sheet is pulled away, and what should be there, but a perfect copy of the "Turtle Baby," just for her. He had paid to have it cast from the original. She said her mother was speechless, and naturally it turned out in the course of the program that the "Turtle Baby" was by a well-known artist and would be worth quite a bit of money at auction.

Well, what struck me was, "This man has shown the world how to love a woman." He has shown us how to love one's wife*. He had no thought that it would ever be known by anyone else. But see, this lesson has now been broadcast to millions of homes! This is the power of the media to be sure--but it's more than that. It means, I believe, that when you do something powerful--when you manifest something intensely beautiful in life--life--or God, if you prefer (I do), may use it to teach the entire world. The mustard seed has become a tree; what was hidden has become manifest.

I have seen this over and over, and wondered at it. That person had no idea his act of love would be known. But it has affected people--how many thousands of men saw that program, and filed the idea away for safekeeping..."Hmmm..."

Of course, I have to have a point with this. I'm really a frustrated minister, you know, and with nobody to preach sermons to, I have to write these updates. Films Media Group has finalized preparations of the revisions I made to "In Another Life." The new version is now being sold from their website. And I have the go-ahead from them to send simple announcements to university professors. So I have begun the project of visiting the website of every college and university in the United States and Canada (Films Media's distribution territory for this film). I go to the home pages for the religion, philosophy, psychology, and sociology departments, respectively (keeping an eye out for anything to do with "death and dying" as well); and I read the bio for each professor, where they have bios. If their areas of teaching and areas of interest are relevant, in my opinion, to the documentary, I send them the e-mail. Occasionally I'll tack on a personal comment pointing out the relevance.

This gives me a fascinating overview of the state of academia. There are very, very few professors in any of those departments teaching any form of mysticism, unless you count the universities specifically founded with that orientation, like the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. Very little mention of consciousness. The majority of the philosophy professors are concerned with language and the famous materialistic philosophers. In the religion departments of the Christian institutions, which I don't mess with very much because I know they are not receptive, there is sometimes a token representative of another tradition. In the religion departments of the secular colleges, they are teaching either traditional Christianity, or the skeptical analysis of religion and religious belief--with a few notable exceptions. The majority of psychology professors are concerned with neurology in one way or another--several of them have a big photograph of a brain when you get to their website, as if to cleverly proclaim that that's what they believe the mind is (the little one to the right was kind of cute); and the majority of sociologists are concerned with social causes**. (One instructor said they "used to have a 'How to Teach the Paranormal' course" and it was "fun.") I send them an e-mail if their area of interest is relevant to reincarnation; but undoubtedly, most of them don't think it's relevant. Only perhaps one or two professors per college appear to be in a space where they would be receptive.

That means that I am not expecting a rousing reception to this effort. I am doing it in the spirit of getting a task done that I know needs to be done, like vacuuming out the apartment or washing the dishes. I put on my tunes, get a snack, light some incense, and let the time pass while I see what all these professors look like and what they're up to, and I just have fun with it. Fortunately some of them have a good sense of humor, so there are some enjoyable teacher websites out there. Dr. Jason Kawall definitely gets the prize for this little penguin video:

Okay, we may have to give a very close second to Dr. Maureen Hays for her chorus line of cavemen:

And first prize for the most beautiful goes to psychology professor Dr. Meera Rastogi:

This bio explains, "Professor Berofsky entered the study of philosophy in order to solve the problem of free will. Because of teaching and administrative responsibilities, this project took longer than anticipated."

On the more serious side, I've had three responses so far today. One religion professor who teaches a class on "death and dying" at a small college was enthusiastic, as was a another religion professor at a large university. But a philosophy professor, who will remain nameless, sent me the following emotional blast: "You should be jailed for the crime of magical thinking. I have no interest in your film, unless you would like to send me a copy so I can throw it away."*** Some of the courses themselves are inherently hostile to the paranormal, like this one: "Psychology of irrational behavior, superstition and belief in the paranormal."

The equation already implied in the course title is:

Paranormal = belief = superstition = irrational

But that equation is false. The correct equation is:

Paranormal = belief + scientific evidence + anecdotal evidence + personal experience

In the face of this kind of opposition, it takes a bit of courage to send these letters. I'm following the advice of psychology professor Dr. Dianne Friedman, as seen on her website with yet another penguin joke at left... When reincarnation researcher and author Carol Bowman happened to write me, and I mentioned I was sending out these e-mails, she said I was "brave." It's true, some of these philosophy professors can get scary, like Dr. Wendell O'Brien on the right (a goof picture, I have no idea how he reacted to the e-mail). One psychology professor's bio states one of his interests as "...the application of psychological inquiry to issues of pseudo science and the paranormal." Here's a psychology professor's webpage [dead link as of 1/28/10] in which he openly champions the skeptical cause, citing magician James Randi who visited his department. I can't imagine how Randi can be honest, given that there is so much solid evidence that surely has been brought to his attention. Or, if he is honest, the power of disbelief is that strong to distort his viewpoint. I've read that people have tried to go through the procedure to claim his prize money with good evidence, and found that procedure, involving a committee of some kind, to be biased and dishonest. But I don't have any first-hand knowledge of that. In any case, this professor is using the power of his position to actively promote the skeptical viewpoint. As is typical, the professor cites a variety of myths, and then lumps all aspects of the paranormal into the same trash bin without presenting any of the strong evidence for the paranormal, or admitting that such evidence exists. Perhaps he doesn't know it exists. But the point is, he could easily know it exists, if his prior assumptions and prejudices would let him develop a sincere enough interest to seek it out. Randi's nemesis these days is Australian attorney Victor Zammit, who insists that the afterlife has been proven many times over to a legal standard, and who offers a downloadable book on the subject from his website.

Some of the beliefs one finds about the paranormal admittedly are irrational, and some are not. The assumption that everything connected with the paranormal must be irrational, is itself irrational--because that assumption has to deliberately ignore very strong evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, to the contrary. Things are not necessarily untrue because they are not normal.

Remember, this isn't just a friendly disagreement down at the local barbershop; these are university courses. Our young people, who will lead us through these very troubled times ahead, are being taught these biased opinions in our colleges as though they were facts. Forgive me, but I must quote the professor in C.S. Lewis's Narnia series: "What are they teaching in schools these days?" It's difficult to get across the relevance of paranormal studies, and reincarnation in particular, to people who have been conditioned by society to think of it as a joke. But the materialistic and mechanistic world-view is no joke, and neither are its social consequences. It has, for one thing, split this society into materialists and traditional Christians, with the remaining minority becoming pioneers in the Wild West of consciousness studies. It's clearly reflected in my informal survey of these professor bios, and thus it's self-perpetuating. It strongly affects everything in life, including how your doctor conceptualizes your physical or emotional illnesses, and what types of cures we choose to spend billions of dollars to develop; how we treat each other, animals and the environment; whether we find any sense and meaning in life (and whether we have to accept prefabricated belief systems to get it); and, of course, how we react to death and loss.

If young people can't get accurate information about the paranormal in our universities, they must turn to a mixture of outside sources. Since there is no quality control, some of these sources will require rigorous thinking, and some will indulge in sloppy thinking. If the universities will not teach the paranormal with respect, then they are helping to foster the very ignorance they ridicule.

Anyway, I digress. As far as the results of my efforts are concerned, if I have done something powerful, I think it will manifest in due time. My job was to make it as clean as possible, so that its manifestation will also be as clean as possible, down the line. I will probably not be alive when this documentary is rediscovered. That sounds grandiose of me, doesn't it? I know it's powerful. It has Don Stevens interviewed in it, for crying out loud. It can't help but be powerful. It has the first video interview of a man in front of his own past-life grave, thus graphically putting the lie to death itself. It has Roger Woolger at the height of his career. If it had nothing else, it would be powerful just because of these things. (Don't know who Don Stevens is, or Roger Woolger? I guarantee your grandchildren will. Think there's not the remotest chance that the grave site interview is genuine? I've been studying and collecting Western reincarnation accounts for nine years now, and this one has several of the key elements one looks for in a genuine case.) Even if the program had no artistic or technical merit whatsoever, wouldn't you think it would be more worthy of broadcast than, say, a program with young women in bathing suits competing in a bug-eating contest, or yet another "100 greatest" countdown formula program? If, having had a budget of a little over $1,000 instead of the usual $100,000, its production values aren't quite up to the standards of nationally-broadcast programs (and it's pretty-damned close), wouldn't you think it would be as worthy of broadcast in a lineup of independent films as that of a filmmaker who went home to her native country for the holidays and, rather inexpertly, filmed her family preparing dinner? (I mean, bless her heart, it was sweet despite the awful camera work and it was socially relevant, but is "In Another Life" so much worse than that?) So, when broadcast executives have turned down "In Another Life," it's primarily been either due to their own personal prejudice, or their assessment of the public's prejudice and tastes, and I do think that in 50 years or so, people will rediscover this program. That's one reason I wasn't so keen on following the latest tacky fashion with editing, and it's also why I was glad to go with Films Media Group, the oldest and largest company providing media to academia--because they have the best chance of still being around in 50 years.

Anyway, time will tell. But if this man's beautiful gesture of love to his wife could end up being seen by the entire country, then perhaps "In Another Life" will get out to the public someday, when the time is right.

p.s. 8/9/06
I keep adding to this...one more thing and I'll stop. Last weekend I helped my girlfriend remodel her garage, and the first thing I had to do was to take down a huge, ugly shelf put together with raw wood and huge nails by the previous owners. As I sized it up, I couldn't see any obvious way to do it. So I took a crowbar, and began trying to wedge the end into cracks between the boards, tugging here, pushing there. Eventually one crack opened a little, and then a little more, and I got one board off. It took me maybe a half an hour to take that shelf down, but I got it. It occurred to me, while I was sweating in the 90+-degree heat in there, that this is parallel to what I'm doing with my reincarnation project. Every time a professor ignores my e-mail, or writes back expressing cynicism, it's like a pull on the crowbar that didn't result in anything. There's going to be a whole bunch of those. But, somebody may keep it in the back of their mind--and when their grandchild mentions a past life, or a colleague mentions Dr. Ian Stevenson's work, or they see one of Carol Bowman's cases presented on national television, or a friend is suddenly cured of a life-long phobia after past-life therapy, they may remember. And at that moment, a "crack" may open just a little wider. Eventually, the materialistic, mechanistic viewpoint, like that shelf, will be dismantled--because it's a conceptual sand castle, and it can't help but come down. Our destiny, as we move into the new era, is to integrate spirituality into daily life and begin to use intuition as well as intellect to see that the universe is alive, and manifests downward from a single, conscious Source. So if you are a professor, and you get a letter from me and react cynically, know that I consider it just one tug of the crowbar in the ever-widening crack represented by reincarnation studies.

Best regards,

Stephen S., Producer

*It occurs to me that some women readers may assume I'm chauvinistic, so I agree, this kind of thing often happens with the sex roles reversed.

**Or their interests assume materialism in some other way. "In Another Life" is based on non-materialistic sociology (albeit at a layman's level of expertise, though I did minor in sociology). Such a thing is almost unheard of--sociology and materialism are almost synonymous. Sociology starts out defining a person as a body, and society as a collection of such bodies. If you define a person as a spiritual being, but then want to study what's happening with a society of such beings, what science do you call that? (Since writing the above I did find two metaphysical sociologists listed for Chapman University.)

***There is plenty of magical thinking among both reincarnationists and materialistic scientists. An example of magical thinking among the latter group is the insistence that physical DNA can be solely responsible for shaping a human being, with his or her unique physical, mental and emotional characteristics, from a clump of cells. I predict that in a hundred years or so, this will stand alongside the flat earth as one of our great conceptual embarrassments. If you want to see clues for this, read "Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect" by Dr. Ian Stevenson; and take note of the unexpected, and not often discussed, results of the Human Genome Project, in which humans turned out to have not so many more genes than lower species (one article in the above link says we have only 10,000 more genes than a worm). Geneticists are scrambling to reinterpret these findings while clinging to a set of materialistic world assumptions, saying that it's the way we use our genes that's more sophisticated (as in "the dog ate my homework"). They miss the obvious because they cannot entertain the possibility that it is the mind (through the medium of the subtle body) which uses DNA as its tool to shape the physical body. Here is a scientific explanation of why identical twins aren't identical. Some of this may be correct as far as it goes, but I would guess it's not nearly enough to account for the differences, and that this would also qualify as a a form of magical thinking. See my archived "Lighter Side" page created several years ago, wherein I deliberately exaggerated magical thinking as a style of humor--and hopefully demonstrated that I know what makes it tick, and presumably, how to avoid using it when addressing serious topics.

Updates Archive

Music opening this page: "High Landrons," Eric Johnson (Ah Via Musicom album)
All I can say is, if you have a chance to see Eric in concert, don't pass it up...
sell the car and hitch to the concert if you have to.

 

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