Cup of Nirvana Philosophical and Contemplative Explorations

Truth is Dancing (New Book Project)

I want you to sit with your deepest pain, your most inescapable suffering. Call it forth even now.  Be with it for a few moments if you can.  I want you to see it, to see it clearly.  I want you to become friends with it.  No, I wish for something greater. I want you to see that this one you have called your “enemy” is and has always been your friend and your deepest confidant.  And when you meet Pain along life’s path, I want you to call Pain “love waiting to be revealed.” I want you to dance with her, and then tell me of her kiss, which awakened you from the dream you called your life.

 

I would like to announce my new book project, from which the above quote been taken. 

Truth is Dancing: An Invitation from the Other Side of Consciousness

This project has been inspired by my thirty-year spiritual journey, especially the very difficult journey of the past year, which began a year ago today with one of the more traumatic events of my life, perhaps the most traumatic I’ve ever experienced.  Very much in the spirit of many of my blogs since last summer, this work will be a poetic and contemplative exploration of love, awakening, and God.

I decided on this project primarily for three reasons. 

First, in the course of the past year I’ve received lots of emails from people who have thanked me for my blogs on eastern spirituality and the philosophy of love.  It seems that these blogs have really helped people in their own journey, and a number of readers have asked me to write a book along these lines.  While there’s much to be said for scholarly writing, my latest project is intended for a general audience, a gift of sorts to all seekers. In this way I wish to acknowledge not only the persons whose lives I’ve touched in some way through my writing but the many people who have touched my life in the past year.

Second, in the past month I’ve been struck with how many friends and acquaintances of mine are, as I did a year ago, undergoing a painful marital divorce, breakups with their partners, or who are otherwise deeply challenged by struggles in their relationships with a significant other.  Right here, in this confusion and pain, there is a profound invitation coming to us, and so an opportunity for consciously owning the transformation that is taking place.  None of what is happening, however painful, is separate from the path we are walking, nor the spiritual aspirations to which we are committed.

Finally, when my fiancée of three years walked out on me never to be heard from again, I knew that I would eventually write about my experiences.  Waiting a year has given me some important clarity but also a deep gratitude for the large residual of mystery that remains.  During this past year, I’ve gone through the whole spectrum of emotions, in their various cycles and epicycles, punctuated at various times with a widening of understanding of myself.  Most importantly, despite the range of emotion and thoughts, there has been to this hour an undeniable and recurring gratitude for everything I was blessed enough to share with Autumn, which really made it the best relationship I ever had. From where I stand now, I offer this work in the spirit of compassion, not only for my ex fiancée, but for everyone who has been compelled to choose, sometimes the unthinkable, because they had to choose from a place of a deep suffering.

Truth is Dancing will include the poetic, contemplative, and photographic expressions of the invitation I’ve received from what I’m calling the “other side of consciousness,” as well as my response to this invitation.  Of course, I can’t say what this other side of consciousness is, for the main objective of the book is to help readers explore their own experience, meet this “other side” for themselves, and discover its invitation to them. 

It’s going to be a bit like Rumi meets Gibran meets Jung meets Oriah Mountain Dreamer meets Zen meets bhakti meets Muse meets Black Sabbath.

My projected completion date is fall 2015.  While I will continue to write scholarly material related to my forthcoming book on postmortem survival, stay tuned for more on the new writing project. 

Michael Sudduth

No Exit for Survivalists?

Friends,

My most recent blog “Survivalists in the Crosshairs” had over 500 hits within the first 24 hours, which surpassed my earlier high volume posts on near-death experiences (September 9, 2014) and the logic of survival arguments (June 4, 2014). Not surprisingly, I’ve received a number of emails and Facebook comments concerning the blog.  While I don’t allow comments to be posted in my blog, readers are always welcomed to email comments to me or interact with me on my Facebook where I engage in limited informal discussion.  I also try to answer all emails. At times I have incorporated responses to emails in my blog.  Here is one such occasion.  Facebook friend Aedon Cassiel has given me permission to post his Facebook query here, which is followed by the response I posted on Facebook.

“Michael, I think I follow most of what I’ve heard you say, and I like the overall tone of what I hear. But I have to confess that I can’t, for all that, form any clear picture in my mind of what actually would satisfy you. That’s not a “what’s your problem, what would even make you happy?!” but a request for clarification, if such is possible. For all I can tell you’ve made critiques to some extent of basically any way I can imagine anyone might go about the project.” – Aedon Cassiel

Aedon:

I’m tempted to bite the bullet here and say, “nothing will satisfy me.” So let’s take that approach first, a kind of worst-case scenario. Besides being an interesting bit of psychological autobiography, so what? This fact, if it is one, hardly counts as evidence against the cogency of my arguments. If the project (at least as traditionally conceived) is intrinsically defective, your observation is exactly would we would expect. Self-defeating arguments are notoriously difficult to save. And I guess that would just be too bad for proponents of the classical arguments, at least given the traditional parameters of these arguments.

But this sort of response would be overly simplistic and misleading.

First, I don’t saddle my arguments with the stronger conclusion that any empirical survival argument does not succeed, or even that any empirical survival argument based on paranormal phenomena fails. This simply does not follow from anything I argue, even if neither you nor I can at present positively specify how the classical arguments can succeed. This may simply be our inevitable epistemic situation at present. For example, given the nature of my critique, the success of the classical arguments may depend on future developments in the scientific understanding of consciousness.

Second, as I have repeatedly noted in my blog and also explain in my book, there are many potentially fruitful alternative approaches to the epistemology of belief in postmortem survival. I would be happy to see survivalists take up the following approaches. Here are three.

(1) Explore the prospects for an experiential justification for belief in survival, similar to what many twentieth-century Christian philosophers have argued concerning theistic belief. A few philosophers have offered programmatic suggestions in this direction, but there’s nothing equivalent to Alston’s Perceiving God (Cornell, 1991) or Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford University Press, 2000) for belief in survival.

(2) Explore the prospects for constructing the classical arguments within the framework of a religious or spiritual tradition. This may be highly relevant when it comes to the problem of auxiliaries, for the kinds of auxiliaries survivalists routinely assume are embedded in the religious and spiritual traditions of the world.

(3) Explore the prospects for belief in survival being based on multiple grounds (including religious grounds), each of which makes a distinctive contribution to the justification of belief in survival. Following Alston’s suggestions at the conclusion of Perceiving God, I developed this with reference to theistic belief in my 2009 book on natural theology, I would encourage survivalists to pursue this with respect to belief in survival. 

The upshot of (1), (2), and (3) is essentially to break the grip that “SPR logic” has had on empirical inquiry into survival. The classical arguments may indeed be irreparably logically “jacked up” given the traditional narrow parameters empirical survivalists have imposed on the inquiry and arguments. So be it.  Sometimes you just need to throw away that old vacuum cleaner and buy a new one. The only thing more challenging than the defects of the classical arguments would be the cognitive intransigence of some of their biggest proponents who regularly confuse rigorous argument with what amounts to little more than the not so clever rearrangement of their prejudices.

Michael Sudduth

Survivalists in the Crosshairs

Friends,

Palgrave Macmillan has scheduled a tentative publication date for October this year for my Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for Post-mortem Survival.  Although the book is now in the production phase, I plan on writing further on the topic. I’d like to elaborate more on aspects of the arguments in my book, as well as cover material and issues that, due to constraints of space and time, I was not able to include in my book.

One of the things I’d like to do is provide further commentary on some recent writers on survival. 

As some of you know, I discussed David Lund’s work in one of my 2013 publications in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. I might revisit my earlier critique of Lund in the light of my subsequent and more refined reflections, as well as some detailed correspondence I’ve had with David over the past two years.  One particularly interesting part of the personal correspondence has been David’s response to my challenge to show how he arrives at a judgment of favorable posterior probability for the survival hypothesis, namely that the survival hypothesis is more probable than not given all the relevant evidence and background knowledge.  Unlike his book Persons, Souls, and Death, Lund did try to show this using probability theory. Naturally, I don’t think he succeeded, in part because his argument is, like the arguments in his book, blind to the problem of auxiliaries. But I thought his response was interesting nonetheless.  It would be nice to get Lund to do a round table with me on this, which would be published on my website. We’ll see.

Robert Almeder is another philosopher whose work on survival I’d also like to single out for critical scrutiny, though I do provide critical comments on his arguments in several places in my book.  While Lund at least exhibits an appreciation of the complexity of the survival debate, I don’t think Almeder does. This is what strikes me about his dialectical maneuvers in debate with both Steven Hales (unfavorable to survival) and Stephen Braude (favorable to survival), and it is transparently obvious when anyone claims, as Almeder has for years, that the evidence for survival is so compelling that we would be irrational to reject the survival hypothesis.

Almeder’s argument for survival fails for very much the same general reason that all the classical arguments fail.  His argument is blind to the problem of auxiliaries.  This is particularly acute in his critique of appeals to living-agent psychic function as a rival explanation of the data.  As Almeder argues, this counter-explanation cannot account for the data unless it’s amplified into a “super-psi” hypothesis, which posits a degree/kind of psychic functioning for which we have no independent evidence.  The lack of independent support allegedly rules out “the super-psi” hypothesis as a legitimate explanatory competitor.  But the objection applies mutatis mutandis to the survival hypothesis since it cannot account for the data unless it’s amplified into a “super-survival” hypothesis (or what I more neutrally call a “robust” survival hypothesis) for which there is no independent support.  

Almeder’s objection to the so-called super-psi hypothesis is, more carefully and neutrally stated, an objection to a reliance on a hypothesis whose explanatory power depends on the hypothesis being amplified by auxiliary assumptions for which there is no independent support.  Almeder is correct in principle, but what he fails to see is that this objection defeats the argument for survival since there is no independent support for the kind of auxiliary assumptions required for the survival hypothesis to have explanatory efficacy.  The only reason why this would not be utterly apparent is if one were utterly unaware of the extent to which the simple supposition of personal survival carries no predictive consequences unless amplified by further assumptions which do not satisfy the very epistemic requirements survivalists impose on rival hypotheses.  I plan to focus on Almeder in connection with this issue in my next blog.

And then there’s Chris Carter.  I’ve commented on Carter’s pro-survival arguments in a 2011 review, my January 2014 interview with Jime Sayaka, and in my May 14, 2014 blog.  I have more to say about Carter, not because I think his arguments are particularly good but because so many parapsychologists and survivalists seem to think otherwise.  In fact, Michael Prescott has said of Carter’s most recent book Science and the Afterlife Experience that it is “perhaps the best book I’ve read on evidence for life after death, and I’ve read quite a few. I recommend it highly.”  Now blurbs can be misleading, but I think, knowing Prescott as I do, that his comment was intended as genuine praise of Carter, rather than an indirect statement about how utterly crappy the rest of literary field is on the topic. (Being the best of a poor lot is a fairly underwhelming achievement.)  While I hold Michael Prescott in high regard, and he has been a wonderful interlocutor, I could not more strongly disagree with his assessment of Carter’s work.  No, Carter’s work is not even “perhaps” one of the best; it’s quite probably one of the worst. And yes, this means that I also disagree with the “distinguished” contingent of researchers who have praised Carter’s work in their review blurbs (including Pim van Lommel, Charles Tart, Guy Lyon Playfair, Larry Dossey, and Neal Grossman). I gladly part company with these gentlemen.  They are simply incorrect.

To be quite frank, I have no interest in saving parapsychologists and survival researchers from the deplorable reputation they have on the whole rightly merited, for example because they continue to endorse shoddy scholarship and perpetuate philosophically unsophisticated treatments of psi and survival. However, since I have devoted part of my project to wheeling away the rubbish that has buried empirical inquiry into survival, expect some further commentary on Carter.

Let me repeat a point I’ve made in this blog, and which I also make in my book.  We need to return to the kind of empirical inquiry into the survival question that C.D. Broad, C.J. Ducasse, and H.H. Price had in view and modeled for us.  Apart from the empirically-informed and conceptually-elevated critical discussions by writers like Alan Gauld, Stephen Braude, and David Ray Griffin, the current debate is simply the most recent in a series of bad sequels to what was once an intriguing and promising plot.

Michael Sudduth

Website Announcements

Friends,

I wanted to announce some general news and my plans for my website for 2015.

(1) Although my forthcoming book on survival is due out in the fall, and I will continue to write on the topic, I intend to announce my next book project on May 2.

(2) This coming summer I plan on finally developing a section of my website I had designed for resources on postmortem survival. There will be several subpages with articles, books, and videos on different aspects of the philosophy of postmortem survival.

(3) I would like also to make available to the general public a version of one of the classes I teach, either Philosophy of Religion or the Nature of Religious Experience. I may do a Podcast in connection with this.

(4) I’m in the process of putting all my previous paper publications online, going back to my earlier work in religious epistemology and Christian philosophy.  These are located under “Articles” under “Writing” in the main menu, I list the new additions below (from most recent to oldest) with links for your convenience.  Some of these were previously available in the form of paper drafts, so in some cases files have been updated to reflect the actual published version of the paper.

MS

Concise Overview of Survival Book

9781137440938A Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for Postmortem Survival

Michael Sudduth

In A Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for Postmortem Survival (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) Michael Sudduth provides a critical exploration of classical empirical arguments for postmortem survival—arguments that purport to show that data collected from ostensibly paranormal phenomena constitute good evidence for the survival of the self or individual consciousness after death.  Focusing specifically on arguments based on the data of out-of-body/near-death experiences, mediumship, and cases of the reincarnation type, he aims to revive the tradition of empirical inquiry into life after death associated with philosophers William James, C.D. Broad, H.H. Price, and C.J. Ducasse. Sudduth proposes to advance the debate with a novel approach.  For the first time, the traditional arguments are formalized using the tools of formal epistemology.  Sudduth shows that this procedure exposes the Achilles Heel of the classical arguments, a self-defeating dependence on auxiliary assumptions. He further argues that when reformulated in the light of the “problem of auxiliaries,” long-standing skeptical objections to survival arguments are immune to traditional survivalist counter-arguments.

CONTENTS and SAMPLE CHAPTER (PDF)

CHAPTER 1:  Introduction: The Classical Empirical Survival Debate

In this introductory chapter Sudduth provides an overview of the empirical debate concerning life after death, a debate focused on whether there are observational data that constitute (good) evidence for life after death.  The salient data are drawn from three kinds of unusual or ostensibly paranormal phenomena: out-of-body/near-death experiences, mediumistic communications, and cases of the reincarnation type.  Sudduth outlines the relevant data, as well as the views of prominent researchers and philosophers regarding the interpretation of these data.  The classical arguments for survival based on these data are sketched and traditional objections noted.  After identifying some of the deficiencies in the current literature, Sudduth outlines his own approach and argument for supposing that the classical arguments fail to show that the salient data are good evidence for personal survival. 

CHAPTER 2:  Exploring the Hypothesis of Personal Survival 

As a conceptual preliminary to the subsequent discussion, in this chapter Sudduth explores conceivable models of survival that might inform the content of the survival hypothesis and thereby bear on what sort of observational data would confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis.  Since the empirical debate has traditionally focused on the prospects for personal survival, Sudduth limits his attention to this widespread view of survival.  In the tradition of C.D. Broad and C.J. Ducasse, Sudduth outlines various models of personal survival, with particular emphasis on the thesis of psychological survival, the postmortem persistence of some significant aspect of our present psychology, usually an important feature of hypotheses of personal survival and especially important to survival arguments.  Sudduth distinguishes between stronger and weaker conceptions of psychological survival based on how strongly our postmortem psychological make-up resembles our antemortem psychology. 

CHAPTER 3:  Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experiences 

This chapter begins with a general description of the empirical approach to survival, which is contrasted with religious and philosophical approaches to survival.  Sudduth goes on to review widely discussed out-of-body and near-death experiences as providing one kind of ostensible empirical evidence for survival. Drawing on data from spontaneous and experimental cases, the chapter includes discussion of the phenomenology of such experiences (i.e., their subjective characteristics) and their apparent veridical features (i.e., their involving apparent accurate perceptions of the world), despite subjects being sensorily isolated from the happenings they describe. Sudduth considers how such experiences might provide indirect evidence for survival under an extrasomatic interpretation, that is, postulating the separation or independence of consciousness from the body.  The chapter concludes with a summary description of six key points of evidence. 

CHAPTER 4:  Mediumistic Communications

Chapter 4 provides an overview of the evidentially salient data from mental and trance mediumship, with emphasis on cases investigated by researchers associated with the British and American societies of psychical research.  Cases include the mediumship of Mrs. Leonora Piper and Mrs. Gladys Osborne Leonard.  Sudduth illustrates and outlines important features of proxy sittings, drop-in communicators, and cross correspondences as distinct kinds of mediumistic phenomena that allegedly provide the best evidence for survival.  In the final section he provides a summary description of the most relevant kinds of evidence.  These include the qualitative and quantitative aspects of accurate information the medium conveys about the deceased, the independent verification of mediumistic claims, and the manner in which the medium conveys the information in trance mediumship, namely by way of convincing personations of the deceased. 

CHAPTER 5:  Cases of the Reincarnation Type

This chapter provides an overview of data collected from cases in which human persons, especially children, claim to have past life memories and exhibit other behavioral and physical features characteristic of some identifiable formerly living person.  Over against a hypothetical ideal case, Sudduth provides an account of six actual cases of these “cases of the reincarnation type” (so named by researcher Ian Stevenson), and also compares and contrasts them with cases of ostensible possession. In the final section he provides a summary description of the most relevant kinds of evidence, including the qualitative and quantitative aspects of accurate information subjects convey about an identifiable deceased person, the independent verification of the subject’s claims, and the subjects exhibiting other personality/behavioral and physical characteristics of the identifiable deceased person. 

CHAPTER 6:  Classical Explanatory Arguments for Survival

Sudduth examines two paradigmatic forms of survival argument construed as explanatory arguments, specifically as inferences to best explanation. Based on an examination of the work of several prominent empirical survivalists, Sudduth distinguishes between “modest” and “strengthened” explanatory arguments. According to the former, explanatory salience is parsed solely in terms of the extent to which a hypothesis leads us to expect the relevant data (so-called predictive power).  According to the latter, the survival inference is mediated by predictive power together with additional plausibility factors interpreted as explanatory virtues. The chapter concludes with an initial attempt to bring confirmation theory to bear on survival arguments. Sudduth proposes the formalization of explanatory survival arguments as Likelihood arguments. He concludes, though, that Likelihoodism does not adequately handle the strong form of explanatory argument. 

CHAPTER 7:  Bayesian Explanatory Arguments

In this chapter Sudduth focuses on important Bayesian analyses of the empirical arguments by philosopher C.D. Broad and classical scholar E.R. Dodds.  Their arguments highlight important features of Bayesian confirmation theory, specifically how likelihoods and prior probabilities jointly determine the net plausibility of a hypothesis. Sudduth explores this by formalizing each of their analyses in the language of Bayesian confirmation theory.  The analysis highlights two points of significant vulnerability for survival arguments: the survival hypothesis’s initial degree of initial plausibility (which might be low) and its explanatory power (which might be low because of effective counter-explanations of the data), each of which influences judgments of net plausibility.  Sudduth shows how Broad and Dodds each interpreted these salient issues and concluded that the case for survival fails to show that relevant evidence, largely from mediumship, renders the survival hypothesis more probable than not. 

CHAPTER 8:  Bayesian Defenses of the Survival Hypothesis

Sudduth considers two Bayesian survivalist defenses of the empirical case for survival, each of which is designed as a response to the Broadian-Doddsian critique.  He first critically explores philosopher Curt Ducasse’s defense of the survival hypothesis, followed by a critical analysis of contemporary philosopher R.W.K. Paterson’s cumulative case argument for survival.  Inasmuch as Ducasse and Paterson each develop their case for survival on the basis of the explanatory power of the survival hypothesis together with judgments about its prior probability, their arguments are Bayesian in structure.  Sudduth formalizes the arguments of Ducasse and Paterson and shows why they fail to show that the survival hypothesis is more probable than not. Sudduth draws particular attention to how an inadequately acknowledged dependence on auxiliary assumptions undercuts their arguments by affecting both judgments of explanatory power and prior probability. 

CHAPTER 9:  The Problem of Auxiliary Assumptions 

In Chapter 9 Sudduth examines how survival arguments are dependent on a range of auxiliary assumptions, without which the survival hypothesis would not lead us to expect the relevant evidence.  Sudduth shows how this “auxiliary assumption requirement,” introduced in Chapter 8, generates the “problem of auxiliaries.” He argues that the auxiliary assumptions needed for the classical arguments are claims that lack independent support. Sudduth shows how this generates an initial problem for survival arguments since it prevents the survival hypothesis from being an empirically testable hypothesis.  Among the wide range of survival-friendly auxiliaries only a small subset would lead us to expect the relevant evidence. The inability to determine which set of auxiliaries is the correct one entails that we really do not know how the world should look if survival is true. This undermines the empirical survivalist contention that survival is an empirically testable hypothesis. 

CHAPTER 10:  Exotic Counter-Explanations 

Chapter 10 explores the nearest explanatory competitor to survival—the appeal to living-agent psychic functioning (psi) in the form of extra-sensory perception and psychokinesis.  Sudduth shows how this living-agent psi hypothesis poses a challenge to the explanatory power of the survival hypothesis, even if it is itself not a particularly good explanation of the data. After considering traditional survivalist criticisms of simple appeals to living-agent psi, Sudduth explores a more robust version of this hypothesis based on Stephen Braude’s motivated psi model.  On this model, psi is construed as guided by the interests or needs of persons, and is linked to important features of abnormal psychology, e.g. dissociative phenomena and the sudden manifestation of latent skills.  Sudduth shows how such a counter-explanation substantially weakens Likelihood and Bayesian survival arguments. 

CHAPTER 11:  Conclusion: The Classical Arguments Defeated

In this chapter Sudduth begins by providing a defense of robust living-agent psi hypothesis of Chapter 10 against a widespread survivalist objection, namely that it involves an unwarranted extension of psychic abilities in the form of “super-psi.” Drawing on the arguments of chapters 8 through 10, Sudduth argues that this objection is implausible and self-defeating. The second half of the chapter is devoted to a summary of Sudduth’s complete argument against Bayesian, Likelihood, and explanatory arguments for survival.  He highlights the way in which the defeating considerations for the first two kinds of arguments become defeaters for all classical explanatory arguments.  In this way, he concludes that the classical empirical arguments for survival, in their explanatory and confirmation-style forms, fail to show that there is good evidence for personal survival.

The Deepest Silence

Lady lover

you closed your eyes

and entered the starless night

in this infinite space we call “here”

where moonlight falls on tranquil streams

and a poet’s voice dissolves the tear

that fell from your half-naked eyes

in which darkness played and danced

like ink against a night sky

 

If I could speak to you of the darkness in this hour,

I would let my love be the silence upon the wind.

 

Lady wonder,

we give our child

yet unborn to the blowing wind 

that carries it over the sea and land

in the valleys, on mountain tops 

where it falls in the lover’s hand

that gently brushed against your face

where beauty danced with God

like birds against the sky.

 

If with a kiss I could wake you from your sacred sleep,

My tears would become words flowing from your trembling lips.

 

Dancing deva,

come dance with me,

on the beach of tomorrow’s dream

covered in tiny grains of you and me

scattered memories of your life

are now sacrificed to the sea

that forcefully pulled you under

where we became the one

like breath against a kiss.

 

If I could come to you now as a flickering flame

my light would awaken you from your deepest sleep.

 

Awaken, lady dreamer,

open those transparent eyes

breathe in again your soul

which we have carried in our hearts

while you have conversed with silence

 

The silence of our birth

The silence of our death

The silence of our now

The silence of our love

M.S.

Book Completion

Dear Friends,

I’m happy to announce that I have now completed my book on empirical arguments for postmortem survival. I submitted the manuscript to my editor at Palgrave Macmillan last night.  We should move along very quickly at this stage towards publication this year. Currently there is a link to the Contents on my Work in Progress page.  I hope in the coming weeks to post a sample chapter or chapter abstracts, pending permission from the publisher.  The book’s official title is A Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for Postmortem Survival.

The book moved in some unanticipated but welcomed directions, especially since January of this year.  One of these was a far more extensive discussion of Bayesian survival arguments, including very detailed critical analyses of the arguments of C.D. Broad, E.R. Dodds, C.D. Ducasse, and R.W.K. Paterson. It would be fair to say that half of the book is concerned with Bayesian-style arguments.  In early 2014 I had promised that I would utilize confirmation theory to formalize the classical explanatory arguments, something that had not previously been done.  One of my long-standing criticisms of the existing literature is that on the whole it lacks logical rigor. In this respect it’s about five or six decades behind the quality of arguments we find in Anglo-American philosophy of religion. Well, I have made good on this promise. Not only do I offer my own Bayesian arguments, I formalize the Bayesian approach taken by Broad, Dodds, Ducasse, and Paterson.  
 
Another feature that developed last fall was a more extensive treatment of the evidence (from near-death experiences, mediumship, and cases of the reincarnation type), in which the data from various prominent case investigations were discussed in detail.  There is a chapter devoted to each of these, with a summary of the salient strands of evidence at the end of each of these chapters. Although these chapters mainly focus on getting clear about the relevant data, I offer some critical remarks about how survivalists have sometimes mishandled the statement of the evidence. As a result of the more elaborate discussion of the evidence, the the book ended up being longer than anticipated, eleven chapters instead of nine, and also took me longer to complete than anticipated.  
 
Due to the work on the book, which included 90 hours in the past week, it’s been awhile since I last blogged. I’m hoping to return now to regular blogging on various topics, including  Zen, chocolate, heavy metal music, relationships, and postmortem survival. I also have plans to blog on some unexpected and fascinating experiences I had in Windsor, Connecticut last January, some of which are related at least indirectly to the topic of my book and which have provided further inspiration for the novel I started writing several years ago.  Stay tuned.
 
Peace,
Michael

If

If you can stand with me in the fire, everything we take ourselves to be will melt away and be dissolved into the light of the sun.

If everything we take ourselves to be should melt away, only one thing can possibly remain and be revealed, everything we are but could not believe ourselves to be.

If you can stop your mind for a brief moment, your will see yourself for the first time.

If you can watch a cat for three hours, you will be a Zen master.

If you can open yourself to the fear of rejection, you will have embraced the part of you that longs to be held by that greater darkness in the silence of your lonely nights.

If you can sit with the painful feelings that arise in you, your most faithful partner will meet you along your path.

If you can bear your sadness long enough, you will see that it is not your sadness you carry, but the sadness of the world.

If you can run away from beauty, you will find it chasing after you.

If you can drop the burden of proving yourself, you will have finally found yourself.

If you can resist the temptation of giving another peace, you will realize that you were seeking to give yourself what is already your most precious possession.

If you can see your lover like tomorrow’s sunrise, you will fall into the moon.

If you can take the backwards step, you will see that there is more present in “your” experience that you.

If you can fall into the space between two thoughts, you will have experienced the origin of the Universe, which in Zen is called nothingness.

If you can dissolve the I, only the I remains.

If you seek to dissolve your suffering, you will only perpetuate it.

If you can truly observe your suffering, it will be seen that it has already accepted it by the I at the root of your individual experience.

If you can walk with your suffering, it will wither under the influence of your love.

If you can treat the present moment as your meditation, you will realize that the peace you are seeking is already your present reality.

If you can eat a jar of cashew butter without attachment, you will understand nirvana.

If you can watch a bird flying and forget that you are watching it, you will have experienced no-self.

If you can let go of your practice, you will know that its goal has eternally been realized.

If you could thank the other for the thorns, your suffering would free all souls trapped in hell.

If you can be in silence when your mind wishes to speak, your deeper fears and pain will be revealed to you, perhaps for the very first time.

If you can kiss the sleeping beauty, she will awaken what remains half asleep within you.

If you can kiss the lips of your beloved, knowing nothing in that moment but her touch, you will understand that her love has neither beginning nor end.

M.S.

Book Update (1/13/15)

Cup of Nirvana subscribers:

I am now in the accelerated final phase of completing my book on postmortem survival, due February 16. I have just completed chapter 5 and will be rapidly completing the remaining five chapters in the next month.  Below I have posted the CONTENTS for the first five chapters.  If you’re interested in receiving chapter drafts, please let me know by email.

Michael Sudduth

 

CONTENTS

  

Series Editors’ Preface

Acknowledgements

 

1   Introduction:  The Empirical Survival Debate                                   1

1.1   Psychical phenomena as ostensible evidence for survival

1.2   The classical empirical arguments for survival

1.3  Deficiencies in the existing literature

1.3.1.  Deficiencies in evidence assessment

1.3.2  Three important conceptual issues

1.3.2.  Deficiencies in the formulation of the survival hypothesis

1.4  Recalibrating the empirical survival debate

1.4.1    The auxiliary hypothesis requirement (AHR)

1.4.2    The problem of auxiliary hypotheses (PAH)

1.4.3    Resurrecting the prior probability and explanatory competitor challenges

1.5.  Concluding remarks

               

2   Exploring the Hypothesis of Personal Survival                                 39

2.1   Personal survival: core conceptual issues

        2.1.1   Personal identity: soul survival vs. embodied survival

        2.1.2   Psychological survival

        2.1.3   Religious and philosophical considerations

2.2   A strong personal survival hypothesis

        2.2.1   The strong psychological survival hypothesis

        2.2.2   The interactionist survival hypothesis

2.3   Conceptions of attenuated personal survival

        2.3.1   The relevance of attenuated personal survival

        2.3.2   Exploring attenuated forms of personal survival

2.4   Concluding remarks

 

3   Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experiences                                         74                                                                   

3.1   The empirical approach to survival

        3.1.1   Philosophical and religious grounds for belief in survival

        3.1.2   Characterizing the empirical approach to survival

        3.1.3   Empirical data that might confirm survival

3.2   Out-of-body experiences

       3.2.1   The relevance of OBEs to survival

       3.2.2   The Martha Johnson case

       3.2.3   Experiments designed to confirm veridical OBEs

3.3   Near-death experiences: general features

3.4   Some widely discussed NDE cases

       3.4.1   The “man with the dentures” case

       3.4.2   The Pam Reynolds case

       3.4.3   NDEs involving apparitions of the deceased

3.5   Analytical description of the salient data

       3.5.1   Descriptions of the OBE data

       3.5.2   Descriptions of NDE-specific data

 

4   Mediumistic Communications                                                            113

4.1   Mediumship: types and general features

4.1.1   Basic types of mediumship

 4.1.2   An “ideal case” of mediumship

4.2   The mediumship of Mrs. Leonora Piper

        4.2.1   Background to Mrs. Leonora Piper

 4.2.2   The George Pellew sittings

 4.2.3   The Kakie Sutton sittings

4.3   Proxy sittings and the cross-correspondences

        4.3.1   Proxy sittings and their relevance

        4.3.2   Mrs. Gladys Osborne Leonard: the Bobbie Newlove case

        4.3.3   The cross-correspondences

4.4   Drop-in communicators

        4.4.1   A drop-in communicator in Iceland

        4.4.2   The verification of Runki’s claims

        4.4.3   Observations on the Runki drop-in

4.5   Rev. David Kennedy’s narrative

4.6   Analytical description of the salient data

  

5    Cases of the Reincarnation Type                                                    163                                        

5.1  Cases of the reincarnation type: general features

 5.1.1   Core evidential features of CORTs

 5.1.2   An ideal reincarnation case

5.2  The Bishen Chand case

        5.2.1   Background to the Bishen Chand case

        5.2.2   Bishen Chand’s claims

        5.2.3   Bishen Chand’s behavior and skills

5.3  Three recent cases

        5.3.1   The Kemal Atasoy case

        5.3.2   The Purnima Ekanayake case

        5.3.3   The Chatura Karunaratne case

5.4  CORTs and possession phenomena

       5.4.1    The Sumitra-Shiva case

       5.4.2    The Uttara-Sharada case

5.5  Analytical description of the salient data

Presence

Recent circumstances have brought to my remembrance a poem I wrote on May 14, 2011. It’s called Presence.  It was at the time the first “optimistic” poem I had written in over 15 years, and I wrote it during a powerfully transformative period. While I consciously wrote this piece about my former fiancee, in retrospect it’s clear that I was in fact unconsicously speaking of myself, specifically my inner feminine (anima) which had been externalized in the other through “projection.”  It’s not that none of what is expressed here was true about the outer feminine, but the truth there (as far as it reached) was only a manifestation of the deeper, abiding truth concerning the inner feminine.  I’m reminded here of the extent to which our conscious understanding of our present situation doesn’t quite penetrate the actual situation in its completeness, is only half the story at best.  As I’ve explored in Dancing Lovers, if we should become conscious of how what attracts us to the external other is a reflection of an aspect of ourselves awaiting recognition and development, we would withdraw our projections and see the other more clearly for the person he or she is.  Consequently, one’s love moves from fullness, not from perceived emptiness or incompleteness; love as a giver, not a taker.  So I now dedicate this poem to Sarah (my anima) and to the other, outer feminine who will be loved with deeper clarity and self understanding. Selah.

 

The mid-day sun is silent,

Enlarged with adoration.

My beloved and I walk,

Hand in hand,

Footprints in the sand.

 

Face to Face – heart to heart,

Her words enter me.

They become my thoughts,

My innermost desire.

 

When I look into her eyes

I see myself more clearly.

When I look within myself

I find her there.

So when she’s gone

She still remains.

Inescapable presence,

Filling me with joy.

 

She smiles and I am embraced

By her longing soul.

She laughs and I am filled

With an inner peace.

 

Through her eyes I see the

Beauty of the world.

Two souls – one eye,

Ever moving, ever still

In this precious moment

Of passing time.

 

Time moves forward, but

Nothing is in the past.

Even the seasons merge into one,

Winter to Spring,

Summer to Autumn,

Ever present.

 

She is the new born freedom

Found within my soul,

When time is forever

And I am now complete.

 

Her kiss is on the wind

That blows against my face.

Her breath is on my words

When they pass through these lips.

 

She is the inner self

Lying hidden in the night.

Moment of surrender

Passage into light.

 

She is the gentleness

Carried by the clouds.

The raindrops that fall

As tears upon my face.

 

She is the love of God

Lodged within my heart.

I surrender myself

Totally, completely.

 

And when I think I can

Enter her no more deeply,

She passes into me.

Inescapable presence,

I melt away,

And we are one.

 

M.S.