Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Addressing the Survival versus Psi Debate through Process-Focused Mediumship research/Sobre El Debate De Sobrevivencia versus Psi a Traves De Enfasis En la Investigacion De Proceso De la mediumnidad/Regler le Debat Survivaliste versus Psi a Travers la Recherche Orientee Sur Les Processus De la mediumnite/Zur Behandlung der Uberlebens- versus Psi-Debatte Mittels der Prozessorientierten Forschung Mit Medien

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Addressing the Survival versus Psi Debate through Process-Focused Mediumship research/Sobre El Debate De Sobrevivencia versus Psi a Traves De Enfasis En la Investigacion De Proceso De la mediumnidad/Regler le Debat Survivaliste versus Psi a Travers la Recherche Orientee Sur Les Processus De la mediumnite/Zur Behandlung der Uberlebens- versus Psi-Debatte Mittels der Prozessorientierten Forschung Mit Medien

Article excerpt

Although parapsychological research most often involves the Big Four--telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis--with only "an occasional nod toward survival and afterlife topics" (Braud, 2005, p. 40), the continued investigation of the latter issues is pivotal for our understanding of consciousness, the potential of the mind, and the nature of life in general. One of the main methods for scientifically addressing life after death involves studying mediums--individuals who report regular communication with the deceased.

Skilled mediums are able to report information that is both accurate and specific about the deceased loved ones (termed discarnates) of livid(termed sitters(1)) using anomalous information reception (AIR) ; that is, without any prior knowledge about the discarnates or sitters, in the absence of any sensory feedback, and without using deceptive means (e.g., Beischel & Schwartz, 2007). However, after over a century of research (reviewed by Braude, 2003; Fontana, 2005; Gauld, 1983), mediumship findings en bloc do not directly address which parapsychological mechanisms are involved in AIR by mediums. That is, the data, in and of themselves, support multiple hypotheses including: (a) the survival of consciousness (i.e., life after death; the continued existence, separate from the body, of at least portions of an individual's consciousness or personality after physical death), (b) the psychic reservoir hypothesis (i.e., that all information since the beginning of time is stored somehow and somewhere in the universe and mediums are accessing that cosmic store rather than communicating with the deceased; reviewed in Fontana, 2005), and (c) super-psi (also called super-ESP; discussed in detail in Braude, 2003, and reviewed in Fontana, 2005). Super-psi, (2) the retrieval of information through telepathy with the living, clairvoyance, and/or precognition, is deemed super by its ostensible requirement of "more refined and extensive psychic functioning than we discover in controlled laboratory studies" (Braude, 2003, p. 11). In the super-psi explanation, a medium may receive information through multiple psi processes:

telepathically from the mind of the sitter (even though the latter may not be consciously thinking about the information at the time), telepathically from the minds of people elsewhere, clairvoyantly from the environment, or even precognitively from the future moment when the sitter checks on the facts given in the communications and finds them to be correct. (Fontana, 2005, p. 104)

However, it is important to note that the survival hypothesis also requires some form of psi in order for information to be transferred from the discarnate to the medium. Indeed, either "the medium acquires her knowledge of discarnate minds by telepathically scanning their minds or ... the discarnate person is telepathically sending information to a medium's mind. In either case, living agent telepathy is operative" (Sudduth, 2009, p. 177). Sudduth (2009) terms this "survival psi" and describes it as "a highly refined and efficacious sort of psi functioning.., indistinguishable from the degree or kind of psi required by the super-psi hypothesis" (p. 184). Because mediums are ostensibly using psi regardless of the source of information--living persons or a cosmic database in the super-psi and psychic reservoir theories, respectively, and deceased persons in the survival hypothesis--in our current discussion of the "survival versus psi debate," we

are using the term "somatic (3) psi" to describe telepathy with living persons, clairvoyance (including of a psychic reservoir), and precognition on the part of the medium but not including survival psi.

To determine which of these parapsychological hypotheses-survival psi or somatic psi--best accounts for MR by mediums, further research is needed. This work is important for reasons that are academically important as well as those that are socially relevant. …

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