It’s a long way from Pennsylvania to Mount Everest. I’m still on the road (a bit closer – now living in New Zealand) but don’t know if I’ll ever get there. It’s not unlike the journey from being born to understanding, or at least making peace with, the meaning of life.
I’m an American man married to a Kiwi woman, retired from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA) in 2013. My first novel was published a few months ago. It’s called Everest Rising, and the plot is relatively straightforward – the Earth is pregnant.
The idea came from a few different places. I am always searching for the new storyline– a tale that hasn’t been told and an engaging core around which to build a compelling narrative. I want my characters to grapple with both the commonness of existence and the wonder sneaking in around the edges. This wonder serves as a catalyst for transforming the human experience; a transformation revealed through the senses, understood by the mind, and confirmed by the heart.
The ‘pregnant Earth’ construct allowed space for various themes to intermingle and for passionate conflicts to play out. There’s conflict concerning the Earth: a living, possibly sentient entity about to safeguard its existence against humankind’s wayward stewardship. There’s conflict among the characters, many of them scientists who must decide how to deal with an unprecedented, physics-defying chain of events. At its center, the story is about acceptance. Accepting how little we know, and in that unknowing choosing how to use our energies and where to direct our focus. Where can one find answers – or some version of a contented frame of mind that reconciles what we guess is true with what we realize will always be mystery.
My aims in writing Everest Rising were simple. To entertain, to nourish hope, and to encourage the acceptance of the unknowable. I would also add I believe this ‘unknowable’ is a positive, never a threat. It speaks to and requires a great reaching, that pulls and propels our mind and spirit up and out, higher and wider, away from the self and the ego.
It was wonderful to explore the musings of so many characters, trying to depict a cross-section of world views and personal ‘what is the meaning of life’ explorations, along with attempting to describe the prescient transformation made possible when individuals are graced with profound realizations.
In doing so, I could explore my own experiences, consider others I’ve been privileged to hear or read about, and maybe lament the dead ends I have stumbled into.
The following is a short overview of the significant characters in my story and a look at the arcs they travel.
James Von Kamburg
A scientist who understands the world is being undone by humankind’s indifference, James is also a man confused by his own heart. He is adrift in his marriage because he doesn’t want to bring children into the painful future on the horizon, allowing the tenets of commitment to his wife to be blurred by the attentions of another woman. Yet, he has a core of integrity as a backstop, and an important opening in the lockbox of his memory that speaks to something beyond what science, and his own senses, know as physical law.
(In the story, James relates a memory from his young adulthood about a celestial event witnessed that itself defied physics. This memory is from my own life, and reminds me that wherever I manage to get to in my ‘knowing’, some things will remain unexplainable.)
Maggie Von Kamburg
James’ spouse is an artist, who entered the profession after an initial foray into science during her university years. She desires a family, environmental Armageddon notwithstanding. More than anyone else in the story, Maggie has known frightening and exhilarating exhortations urging her to embrace a different level of consciousness, and in the end, she succumbs to the risk. On the other side are things both wonderful and terrifying.
Griffon is the antagonist, a man of money and power, and spiritual unconsciousness. He would see the world bend under the rule of science, and yet there are hints he might stumble into a more compassionate space.
Finch, Griffon’s paramour, is a woman driven to find professional success. Yet, her emotions lead her into dangerous terroritories. She has flashes of insight revealing that much of what she does and thinks is not in her best interests, but cannot find a path that will save her.
A Sherpani physician, Maya embodies hope and tenacity. She is a forthright, steadfast helpmate to her community and her friends. At odds with the western-intoxicated influences of an Everest located luxury lodge and its owners, she is drawn into the escalating crisis, and called upon to navigate with both her sharp psychological instincts and formidable physical prowess the astounding events at hand.
A long-serving man of the Buddhist cloth, the Abbot finds the very basis of his spiritual and earthly existence under attack. His contract with a western firm means money for members of his order who live under oppressive rule, but the firm’s emerging defilement of the land faces him with a collision of doubt and faith. His world– the Earth, in upheaval– he must counsel from a place of great apprehension to help bring about a morally irreproachable, if uncertain, outcome.
These players are cast beside and against each other. The slow transforming of minds and mindsets bends the plot and drives the denouement. Mother Earth herself does not go without a voice.
To summarize, my novel is a stage where individuals must reconsider their hard-earned absolutes in the face of contradictory evidence. The unfolding events bring each character to a critical juncture that requires a new manner of thinking and, indeed, being.
Though the physical realm may bruise and bite, bringing even death, the greatest battles are fought in the mind and spirit, where compassion and grace and wonder stand their ground against selfishness and ego and absolutes. Everest Rising stages an animated tableau where this engagement is laid bare.
My life has known the strange trajectory that delivers one from existential conviction (via science and religion) to the place of uncertain yet greatly comforting hope and acceptance. I won’t ever know what I once thought I did, as far as where I arrived from and where I may end up. But I can accept and revel in the miracle of being at all, and warm to the nudges that our existence is blessed and ever-evolving.
My hope as the author is that readers will be philosophically moved by the revelations inside the hearts of the story’s players. And, maybe, recognize in their own lives the profound opportunities glimpsed when the soul, with its wider, searching consciousness, is given purchase on the multi-textured, wondrous pathway from Birth to the Beyond.
About the author
Matt Kambic is a writer and artist who hails originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He currently resides in Hamilton, New Zealand.
Visit Matt’s website at mdkambic.com
To purchase a copy of Everest Rising, click here
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I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that those of us writing Visionary Fiction have had some sort of vision, be it a lucid dream, an unexpectedly successful meditation, a trip brought on by a substance outside the normal diet, or even a near-death experience. It may have lasted several hours, possibly a day or two, but more likely it was only a few minutes. Nevertheless, a mere glimpse beyond the veil is all that’s required to alter one’s consciousness. We are suddenly aware that we are more than; more than we had been taught, more than we believed, more than we could have imagined. We are aware that things are not as they seem, and perhaps more importantly (as a motivating factor), we are aware that things need not remain as they are, that if only more people were clued in to the true nature of reality, the manifested mundane world could be modified in ways that would benefit all beings. So we are driven to spend endless hours of our short time here on earth piling up words, in hopes that our work will open the minds of our readers.
I’ll go out on another limb and presume that as writers of fiction we have all learned the maxim: show, don’t tell. Yet how do we show the qualities we have come to know in that eternal moment snatched from the other side—timelessness, infinity, unity—given that our only tool, language, is linear, finite, and distinctive by nature? How do we convey a globe to Flatlanders at all, let alone without technical ‘tell-y’ explanations? We resort to magic and miracles, time travel, multiple universes, and other devices which can only dimly reflect the thing itself, the vision we had, whatever atemporal, metaphysical phenomenon instigated our Visionary Fiction writing to begin with. We can only stand back with the reader and say: this is what it looked like, this is what it felt like, these are the possibilities it promised, this is how I know I am you and you are me; hoping all the while that we can convince them not to give up on themselves, on love, on the Universe, or the One, or God, or however we attempt to name that thing that touched us in the vision.
If you think this is the part of the essay where I offer up answers to these intractable problems, you are sadly mistaken. Obviously, if I possessed the alchemy required to turn the ineffable effable, you would have heard of me. I have no new tricks for conveying the characteristics of transcendent states. I will however propose a strategy we might as a group apply to make our works more effective in the evolution of consciousness.
“The collective consciousness is altered through art.”
The collective consciousness is altered through art. New thought-forms may enter the mental body of humanity through nonfiction, proofs and academic papers, but the masses remain polarized on the emotional plane and are impressed primarily through fiction: movies, television, songs, and books. The popular self-help genre has done an excellent job of helping people to look at things in their own life differently, of seeing problems as opportunities, of seeing the ‘other’ as self—that we are in fact our own antagonists. Science, too, is doing its job, slowly but surely proving not only the interdependency of living things, but the indivisibility of the fields of energy which constitute the universe(s), and all beings therein. Yet the purveyors of fiction still insist that every hero has an enemy, that every story must have a winner, that every ‘other’ should be seen as a threat to be defeated or destroyed. How can humanity be expected to escape this stultifying pattern if they are not presented with alternatives in their entertainment? Read your child Little Red Riding Hood a few times, and they will be afraid of wolves forever.
If you seek to be published, common advice from the industry is to ramp up the antagonistic behavior in your plot, cut every scene without action, and keep the tension high. No doubt this does help to sell more books, just as ramping up the amount of corn syrup will sell more cereal. But what do we want to feed to the emotional body of mankind, to our readers, to ourselves? Perhaps it is true that no story can command the reader’s attention without a villain, but let us at least make an effort to change the nature of the relationship, to have the story end not with the elimination or defeat of the antagonist—be it tyrannical emperor, hurtling asteroid, or greedy black hole—but with its acceptance and integration within the heart and mind of the protagonist. The expansion of self is always an act of inclusion. If the goal of VF is to aid in the growth of consciousness, the protagonist and antagonist must recognize themselves as limbs of the same tree. Let us introduce a new model, establish a new thought-form in the noosphere. Why not frame the heroine at the beginning of the story as one who already understands—that there is nothing outside of herself, that thoughts are things, that things are beings, that all beings are interconnected, that individuals are essentially metaphors for one another—and see what happens from there?
“Visionary Fiction writers are the vanguard of this evolution.”
Like it or not, as Visionary Fiction writers we are the vanguard of this evolution. We must not let the fear of being ignored by mainstream publishers, critics, or consumers keep us from changing the paradigm. If our readership is limited, at least those we do reach will have the opportunity to follow a new line of thought and slip out of the old dualistic archetype. Eventually a tipping point will be reached, the worldview of humanity will shift, and that which we have glimpsed beyond the veil will manifest in form.
Gerald R Stanek’s latest works—The Road to Shambhala and Contact and Other Impressions focus on the interplay between the mundane and ethereal worlds, and the effect of transcendental experience on subjective reality. He has also written numerous children’s books, several of which have been illustrated by his wife, visionary artist, Joyce Huntington. The places they have called home: Tucson, Ithaca, Sedona, and Ojai provide the settings for many of his stories. To learn more visit geraldrstanek.com
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Applied Parapsychology: Synchronicity and Super Synchronicity
Parapsychology in its various aspects is an enormous field of study and practice both for evolving humans trekking through the maze of physical/mental/spiritual existence and for visionary authors narrating that tortuous saga, aptly named the Hero’s Journey by mythologist Joseph Campbell.
But prior to it becoming a way of life or genre of fiction, parapsychology is a science: a body of knowledge that can be trusted because a scientist, in the broad sense of the term, did the proper lab work and wrote the requisite papers that other scientists diligently vetted. Such science takes dedication, time, and resources, and often must be done in the hostile environment mentioned earlier. So, a work like Super Synchronicity: Where Science and Spirit Meet is a priceless gift to humanity.
For someone coming cold upon the concept of synchronicity, this book might initially evoke a “You’ve got to be kidding.” Why Gary’s degrees and experience are necessary for him to get away with it.
But as a VF writer, who sees that reality is often stranger than fiction, I came to it already familiar with the concept and experience of synchronicity. Even supersynchronicity (six or more events “in close proximity that do not seem to have any causal connection but are still related meaningfully”) was not too much of a stretch. But rarely did I pay attention long enough to count that far. Also, I had no idea how many others had such experiences and in what quantities, or what might cause such chains of events. All this and more I gathered from Dr. Schwartz’s dissection of this complex subject presented in a chatty tone that made me feel like the author was talking to me personally. He was even kind enough to point out looming technical or mathematical swamps, giving permission to skip over them if necessary.
At least since Carl Jung’s Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle published in 1960, synchronicity has been considered a psychic complement or alternative to classical scientific causality itself, a substitution that requires concentration to grasp. Not an excursion for psychic voyeurs. Dr. Schwartz gently but logically proposes what he calls the Quantum Synchronicity Theory (QST), calling on the wave-particle concept of quantum physics to show how synchronicity can be singular and plural, subjective and objective, at the same time.
VF Picks up Where Lab Testing Can’t Go
Further, Super Synchronicity suggests that the scientific method, already used to verify simple psi, can be expanded to prove out complex psi. Gary gives several detailed examples for accumulating real time evidence of a supersynchronicity. In my experience, Visionary Fiction, both in its writing and reading, follows a similar path to illustrate the faculties involved in growth of consciousness. Note that science fiction writers like Jules Verne and Robert Heinlein used a similar experimental technique based in theoretical science to postulate future “hard science” like space travel.
Recall also the example of the team, prolific novelist Taylor Caldwell and psychic reincarnation researcher Jess Stearn, that I cited in a previous article. It might be disparaged as anecdotal; and yet for reincarnation, as complex a form of psi as there is, it is strong evidence, an NOE (No Other Explanation) in my opinion.
My own historical novels, which also explore reincarnation, owe much to researchers like Stearn and Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia. Still, it was the anomalous experiences I had while writing (see The Parapet on my website as one example) that convinced me that I’d hit something beyond fiction. When readers then told me that my books caused change in their lives by inducing them to recall prior lives and notice other paranormal phenomena, I knew I was going in the right direction. Frequently, by just continuing to write, we come to trust that the visionary glimmer, crazy as it seems when it first pops out from whence such things come, will reveal itself in its own right time–and it will be good.
I found it amazing and instructive that, in last chapters of Super Synchronicity, Gary Schwartz, the confirmed scientist, broke out of objective mold and soared to heights where supersynchronicities are always and everywhere, ubiquitous facets of the One Mind that is all that there is. A mystical conclusion, to be sure, but stated humbly and directly by one who has many times walked the long miles of the exotic journey of which he writes.
Nevertheless, he does not simply dump a dose of metaphysics on the reader, leaving him to hope that grace or a strong psychedelic will visit him with an experience like Maurice Bucke’s. Ever the psychology professor aware of the limitations of the timid human mind, Gary introduces a dandy tool to explore our usually underdeveloped psychic side. In the book’s Introduction, he writes:
I will introduce in these pages the concept of “self-science,” which is especially important for the study of synchronicities, and which essentially refers to creatively applying the methods of science to the real-life laboratories of our personal lives. By providing you with self-science methods and tools that are easy to apply, you will have the opportunity to discover and evaluate for yourself synchronicities in your own life and in the lives of others.
Self-science, whether applied to synchronicity, reincarnation, or any other element that induces growth in consciousness, ought to be in every VF writers’ vocabulary. It is classical: know thyself. And biblical: the kingdom of God is within. It is a double star: we gain self-science as we write and we engender self-science in another when they read .
Parapsychology to Create the Future
Despite all the water that has flowed beneath the many bridges of his expertise, we wouldn’t expect Dr. Schwartz to just sit now and marvel at the wonders he has wrought. Like those of us who are finally getting the hang of this visionary fiction thing and its power to contribute to a better future, Gary estimates that the best fruits of his decades of paranormal research are ahead. Blessed to be both philosopher and science guy, Gary appreciates electronic gadgetry; and one of his team’s efforts-in-progress is the SoulPhone®.
Now, hold your breath. This one is literally out-of-this-world. But then, why not a device to bridge between mind and matter, life and death? What better use for applied parapsychology than an instrument promoted as “An Integrative, Evidence-Based Technology for Spirit Communication” that “may someday allow you to visit with your ‘deceased’ loved ones. That may sound impossible or too good to be true but, based on early research findings, it’s not.” So this device in development, based in part on the years of research Gary has invested in mediumship and other paranormal phenomena, is described on the website for The SoulPhone® Foundation and in another article featuring it.
Sure, it’s whacko. But so was the submarine in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. That’s how dreams come true. There are plenty of us old enough to remember when desktop computers were science fiction and a portable phone that slipped into your pocket—fuhgeddaboudit! In An Atheist in Heaven, Dr. Schwartz has amply demonstrated that a deceased person does not even have had to believe in God to communicate with the still-alive. Why not an improved method to place long distance calls to departed relatives? Or whatever other leap of mind or heart the ever-creative human spirit can conjure up?
I hope this series about the work of Dr. Gary Schwartz and his cadre of latter-day Galileos serves as fuel for our visionary thoughts and imaginations. Providence, by whatever name, supplies challenges in abundance for those who would play the game. VF writers see and describe them, and so there are VF books. These, in effect, throw down the gauntlet to scientists and other really smart folks who design elegant and practical solutions. And so there are computers and cell phones and soul phones. And growth in consciousness. What fun!
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Undercover Agents of Consciousness
To read or revisit Part One of this series, click HERE.
Like researchers venturing beyond the known and allowed boundaries of sanctioned science, visionary authors often strike radioactive material that incites incredulity, hostility, and worse. For these, in the words of Carl Jung, “The experience that furnishes the material for artistic expression is no longer familiar…. It is a primordial experience which surpasses man’s understanding, and to which he is in danger therefore of succumbing. The value and the force of the experience are given by its enormity. It arises from timeless depths; it is foreign and cold. Many-sided, demonic and grotesque.” Writing, even if obviously fiction, that calls another’s sacrosanct belief system into question invites attack and ridicule. Ask Dan Brown or J. K. Rowling.
While we create stories to ostensibly enthrall and entertain, we are, in fact, undercover agents attempting to ignite the universal but often lethargic human impulse to grow in consciousness. That effort, like a medicinal shot, is rarely appreciated. Becoming more aware is hard; it takes change. Everything that improves our chances of success is on the table.
The state achieved by taking the recommended hero’s journey has to appear valuable, and the trip itself better seem doable, or we’ve lost our knight-errant. Readers want to see themselves performing the feats that our heroes do and to come away with some tools to do likewise. The more accurately informed (scientific) our work is, the more they will be inclined to try similar experimental deeds on their own.
Since we are dealing with the paranormal, too often misread as abnormal, and the unusual, also misread as untrue, we must ensure that our facts are facts more so than those who write realistic fiction. As Gary Schwartz reminds us in Super Synchronicity, Dr. Carl Sagan was fond of saying, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
Example: A Spiritually Transformative Experience (STE)
Some paranormal classes of experience are considered simple, like an instance of telepathy, picking up what another is thinking. And some are complex as in near-death experience, past-life regression, or supersynchronicity. The simpler forms of psi, another acceptable term for the paranormal, have already been proven in labs, but its complex manifestations do not easily lend themselves to standard testing.
As an example of this last, because it is compact but still complex psi and also fascinating, let me borrow a Spiritually Transformative Experience (STE) from by Charles Tart’s highly-recommended book, The End of Materialism. In 1872 Richard Maurice Bucke, a Canadian psychiatrist, who “thought of himself as a man of science, devoted to factuality and accuracy” had an experience from which he coined the term “Cosmic Consciousness” to describe what happened to him.
This according to Bucke’s own account although he tells it in the third person: On his way home, after a congenial evening among friends in London, Bucke “was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment. All at once, without warning of any kind, he found himself wrapped around, as it were, by a flame-colored cloud. For an instant he thought of fire, some sudden conflagration in the great city. The next he knew the light was within himself. Directly afterwards came upon him a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness, accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning flash of Brahmic Splendor, which has ever since lightened his life; upon his heart fell one drop of Brahmic Bliss, leaving thenceforward for always an aftertaste of heaven. Among other things he did not come to believe, he saw and knew:
According to Tart, Bucke maintained “that he learned more within the few seconds during which the illumination lasted than in previous months or even years of study and that he learned much that no study could ever have taught.”
Talk about extraordinary claims! And Tart’s book is non-fiction as are Gary Schwartz’s. If we VF writers come up with that kind of stuff, readers ask what drug the good doctor was taking. Note that Bucke’s enlightenment is presented not as a matter of belief but as direct experience, a form of multi-perceptual comprehension known as Gnosis, an immediate and experiential infusion of what is best called the divine delivered so as to permanently change the recipient’s life. This is darn close to Saul falling off his horse on the way to Damascus and coming off the ground as St. Paul, the ardent disciple of Jesus. How does one apply science to something like that?
Applying the Scientific Method to the Paranormal
Just thirty years ago, the idea of applying the scientific method to spiritual research was considered ridiculous. That has changed considerably.
There’s no space here to cover the entire process, but I’ll outline it as presented by American philosopher Ken Wilber, especially in his work, The Marriage of Sense and Soul. He differentiates between narrow empiricism (evidence allowed from sense data only, what Charles Tart and Gary Schwartz call scientism) and broad empiricism (evidence from sensory, mental, and spiritual experience). “Empiricism in the very broadest sense means that we always resort to experience to ground our assertions about any of these domains (sensory, mental, spiritual).”
Note that proof is derived from contemplation of experience (a posteriori or after the fact, science in its proper meaning, spirituality) rather than from decree of authority (a priori or decided before testing, scientism, dogmatic religion).
When applying the scientific method to paranormal or spiritual research, we are doing science in its broad meaning. We cannot measure paranormal/spiritual phenomena solely with sense data.
The scientific method, whether narrowly or broadly applied, has three main steps:
- specify an experiment (hypothesis, injunction),
- perform the experiment and observe the results,
- Verify/falsify the results with others who have done the same experiment.
After step 3, the process often loops the revised hypothesis back to step 1 for another round testing. It can, of course, get considerably more complex, but that I’ll leave to the scientists like Wilber, Tart and Schwartz and their informative books.
The Extraordinary is “Good to Go”
With “extraordinary” claims that are inherently true, there comes a point where the proof process is adequate. Despite the contempt for parapsychology demonstrated in the Wikipedia definition with which I opened Part 1, there has been, in fact, an extraordinary amount of experimentation and accumulation of evidence in and out of scientific laboratories that validate psi events.
In The End of Materialism, Charles Tart maintains that the scientific method under strict laboratory conditions has already been scrupulously applied to most simpler psi phenomena. After reviewing experimentation over the past 100+ years, he concludes that the “big five” (telepathy, clairvoyance or remote viewing, precognition, psychokinesis, and psychic healing) have been proven sufficiently that we can stop asking “Are they real?” and start looking for ways to put them to use. Go to it, visionary authors.
He puts the more complex psi phenomena (Post Cognition, Out-of-Body, Near-Death-Experience, Postmortem Survival, Mediumship, Reincarnation, and STEs like Bucke’s above) in a less certain status. Not that there aren’t numerous valid instances of these, but they don’t adapt easily to standard lab testing, at least with today’s level of training and financing. Applause goes to groups like IONS and IANDS that do much of this work independently, largely with volunteer scientists and grassroots funding.
[Wow, I just realized that Part 2 is already long enough for a single helping, and there is still a lot to be covered, including Super Synchronicity itself and the very exciting Soul Phone. So, I queried the editors, and they were kind enough to let me spill over to a Part 3. And that will finish it —promise. 😊]
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Introducing Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Parapsychology is a field of study concerned with the investigation of paranormal and psychic phenomena, which include telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, near-death experiences, reincarnation, apparitional experiences, and other paranormal claims. It is often identified as pseudoscience…. Parapsychology has been criticized for continuing investigation despite being unable to provide convincing evidence for the existence of any psychic phenomena after more than a century of research. It has been noted that most academics do not take the claims of parapsychology seriously.
The above, in italics with the bolding mine, is a quote from the current Wikipedia entry for Parapsychology. I could spend time berating its fake facts as ought to happen with the fake news all the rage today. Instead, I’ll cut to the chase and, as an allegedly sane visionary novelist who specializes in historical fiction featuring reincarnation and other paranormal phenomena, take down this benighted description with the example of a highly-credentialed academic who indeed takes parapsychology seriously.
Look up Dr. Gary E. Schwartz on the internet, and you will discover a gentleman with his Ph.D. from Harvard, who taught psychiatry and psychology at Yale (both reputable schools, I understand), and is currently professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, psychiatry, and surgery at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He has published more than 450 scientific papers, including six in the prestigious journal Science, co-edited 11 academic books, and authored 8 books for the general public. (Click this link for a listing of his works on Amazon.) He also serves as the director of the U of A’s Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health (LACH). For the record, I am an autodidact who tends to sneak past scholarly institutions and their pundits.
In 2002, while researching reincarnation for my novel The Anathemas, I happened across Dr. Schwartz’s The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life after Death. The book’s erudite title and Dr. Schwartz’s lofty credentials promised to somewhat legitimize my obsession with the still-maligned occult. Few were the mainstream scientists/educators who were willing to put the words “scientific” and “life after death” in the same book, much less in its title.
I followed Dr. Schwartz through the years as he produced book after book that crisply and bravely brought science and spirituality closer together without wandering too far into either the wooly pasture of woo-woo or the prickly cacti of ultra-skepticism. Since I too live in Tucson, site of the University of Arizona where Dr. Schwartz teaches, our paths narrowly missed crossing at various events several times. Finally, in early 2017, I attended a pair of IONS (Institute of Noetic Science) lectures that featured Dr. Schwartz and his two most recent works. The first, An Atheist in Heaven: The Ultimate Evidence for Life After Death? with co-author Paul Jeffrey Davids, is an out-of-this-world true story about Hollywood horror genre personality, Forrest J. Ackerman. An avowed atheist, the film maker nevertheless told his friends that he would let them know if he found something to life after death if there was something when he got there. The book chronicles how “Forry” kept his promise, making his continuing existence evident on dozens of occasions, the authors witnessing most of them. As many have said about their own paranormal experience, “You can’t make this stuff up.”
The second of Dr. Schwartz’s recent books, germane as well to visionary fiction, is Super Synchronicity: Where Science and Spirit Meet, just released on February 18. More on that one later. For now just know that it is a supersynchronicity that, after 15 years of trying, I finally sat down for that coveted one-on-one with Gary (switching to first-name basis here) this past month.
Paranormal Research Thumbnail
With his commitment to the study of the paranormal, Dr. Schwartz might be an outlier among academics, but he is hardly the first or the only one. Some of the world’s greatest scientists and intellects (Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Kircher, Liebniz and Newton, to name a few) risked their lives and careers to study and promulgate ideas that were factual but forbidden, and so were classified as heretical or occult by the authorities. Only in 1882 was a professional body, the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), formed in London that gave scientists and scholars a forum to investigate paranormal phenomena. Struggling for validation and funds throughout the 20th century, parapsychologists experienced some success (labs of distinction were founded at Stanford and Duke in the US) but more often got the cold shoulder or worse from peers. Their chosen discipline lay in the strafed no-man’s-land between fundamentalist theology and equally dogmatic scientism.
By the 1980s, parapsychological research had waned in the United States. Even the CIA disavowed the results of the remote viewing program at Stanford Research Institute that it had operated for decades. Currently, only two American universities have active psi laboratories. I encountered the one, the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies made famous by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, when first researching reincarnation. The second is the University of Arizona’s LACH directed by Dr. Schwartz.
While paranormal research still flourishes in other parts of the world where religious and scientific cynicism is less prevalent, the burden of parapsychological study and practice in America is now carried by private institutions. These include the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell in 1973 “to broaden the knowledge of the nature and potentials of mind and consciousness and to apply that knowledge to the enhancement of human well-being and the quality of life on the planet”; the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) based in Durham, North Carolina with its vision to build “global understanding of near-death and near-death-like experiences through research, education, and support”; and The Monroe Institute founded in the 1970’s by inventor Robert Monroe to advance “the exploration of human consciousness and the experience of expanded states of awareness as a path to creating a life of personal freedom, meaning, insight, and happiness.”
This list is suggestive, not exhaustive. There are dozens of worthy organizations researching consciousness and thousands of paranormal practitioners using the many effective modalities defined. Living and writing in Tucson, I have the distinct advantage of Dr. Schwartz’s laboratory down the street, which contributes to thriving local IONS and IANDS units, both with outstanding monthly speaker programs as well as study groups and workshops. Here the paranormal has become quite normal, and this is a red state. Expanding consciousness is everyone’s concern; it is thrilling to see the opportunities to explore it growing exponentially. Even communities less endowed than Tucson have ample resources available on line.
Visionary Fiction Partnered with Scientific Fact
I don’t expect visionary fiction writers and readers to be among the naysayers when it comes to paranormal phenomena even though we can and should be vigorous in vetting what seems impossible or improbable.
As fiction, our writing embraces the general objectives of any art: to engage and entertain our audience. In writing visionary fiction, as is stated in the Characteristic Features of VF, our stories use reincarnation, dreams, visions, paranormal events, psychic abilities, and other metaphysical plot devices. The fantasy genre uses these elements also, ordinarily outside a realistic framework. But VF employs them in the specific context of promoting growth in consciousness. To accomplish this purpose, the paranormal elements used must be actual (based on real data) or at least probable. If it sounds like I am waxing scientific here, good, because I am.
I don’t mean that every VF author has to head for the lab and perform precise experiments, double-blinds and all, before using a paranormal device in a story. I know I don’t. In fact, I’ve been known to almost wet myself when real evidence suddenly provides proof for some paranormal element that I thought emerged whole-cloth from the Stygian swamp of my overwrought imagination. (For an example, check out the Intuitive Research page on my website.)
No wonder I get excited when I come across something like Gary Schwartz’s Super Synchronicity: Where Science and Spirit Meet. Such books, and operations like the Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health at the U of A, allow us visionary authors to write about various preternatural phenomena with confidence in their veracity even though we have neither the time, resources, or perhaps brains to perform the requisite scientific experiments ourselves.
In PART TWO , we take a closer look at the effect the work of scientists like Dr. Schwartz can have on both the creativity of individual visionary artists and the vector of universal growth in consciousness. And as a bonus, I introduce you to the SoulPhone®, a technology in development by Gary Schwartz and associates that promises to allow those on Earth to communicate with those “in spirit.”