Monday, June 20, 2011

Interviews With Some Paranormal Researchers

There have been some good interviews lately on the Skeptiko webcast. Rupert Sheldrake was interviewed this past April regarding his interactions with Richard Wiseman. He also discusses a book he's working on about science and materialism, which is due out in 2012, as well as an updated version of his book on telepathy between humans and animals. Guy Playfair, one of the original investigators of the Enfield Poltergeist, was interviewed last month.


  1. Below are links to articles and books concerning a semi-famous incident of poltergeist phenomena, demonic oppression (or possession), ghostly apparitions, and divine healings associated with the life and ministry of Lutheran pastor Johann Blumhardt.

    Reading "The Awakening" I was shocked to discover that he sort of interviewed the "ghostly" apparitions that the disturbed girls he was ministering to were able to see. Something smiliar to what some modern exorcists claim to do. From the "interviews" Blumhardt conducted, he concluded that SOME apparitions are the actual spirits of human beings who have died and are kind of wandering the earth seeking rest (which fits the usual definition of "ghost" that most people are aware of).

    I've always denied the existence of "ghosts" in that sense and definition. I did so when I held to conditional immortality and annihilationism (20 years ago). As well as when I eventually held to a more orthodox position which teaches that the departed spirits of human beings either go directly to heaven (if saved) or to the compartment of sheol where the unsaved await the resurrection of their bodies and the final judgement.

    But I'm now reconsidering that position after reading the testimony of Pastor Blumhardt coupled with my (poor?) recollection that our Steve Hays is also open to the possibility that "ghosts", as popularly defined, are real. Obviously, Steve can clarify his position. Whatever, the case, it's always a possibility that Blumhardt was lied to and tricked by demons into believing that they were the disincarnate spirits of deceased human beings.

    Here are the links:

    Johann Blumhardt wiki article with links to various books including "The Awakening"

    The Awakening

  2. Interesting thoughts, AP.

    I've been reading T-blogue's intermittent articles on these related topics with much interest, because I'm convinced anecdotally and empirically of the evidence of supernatural phenomenon from Scripture, reason, and conscience.

    Obviously many (most?) claims of the paranormal can be chalked up to good ol' fashioned hucksterism and gullibility, but it can't all be explained away, and certainly the Biblical witness of what we might classify as supernatural/paranormal activity is true by definition.

    It's because of God's Word, and my understanding of it, that I can't get past Heb. 9:27.

    Even if the Bible had nothing else to say on the topic this one text would seem to explode the idea that disincarnate human souls/spirits are wandering around the earth.

    Maybe there's an alternate rendering or understanding of this verse (among others) which would allow for some wiggle room in this area, but to date I've not seen any exegesis that seems persuasive.

    In Christ,

  3. Blumhardt interprets Luke 8 and the case of the man of the Gerasenes as possessed not with demons, but with the spirits of dead human beings. He makes this statement: "Jesus was aware that demons, as departed human spirits, fear hell."

    I know of no Evangelical exegete who hold this view of Luke 8, much less the whole idea of demons = departed human spirits. It seems Blumhardt has unwittingly allowed his experience to shape the way he interprets this scripture instead of allowing exegesis to do so.

  4. CD,

    There's a basic difference between the intermediate state and the final state. The damned are doomed, but what happens to them between death and the final judgment is a different question than their ultimate punishment. And wandering the earth could, itself, be punitive, albeit a temporary punishment prior to the Day of Judgment when they are consigned to hell.


    Valid point.

  5. Just insane. Don't believe something just because it is delivered in a "serious" sounding English accent.

    This is just W.C. Fields trying to sell you snake oil in a reassuringly sober accent. Pure B.S.

  6. Thnuh Thnuh said:

    Just insane. Don't believe something just because it is delivered in a "serious" sounding English accent.

    Um, did anyone here actually say they believe what Sheldrake has to say based solely or primarily on his English accent?

    Does anyone here besides you actually think rational people in general "believe something just because it is delivered in a 'serious' sounding English accent"?

    You sure do you have a way with making your assumptions other people's assumptions without any justification whatsoever.

    This is just W.C. Fields trying to sell you snake oil in a reassuringly sober accent. Pure B.S.

    As I've told you before, you often make assertions in lieu of reasonable argumentation. It may be "Pure B.S." but where's your argument? Just another one of your many drive-by comments.

    BTW, you also frequently ask questions or raise issues only to have them addressed by one of us or other astute commenters, but you rarely if ever follow-up on the question and engage the counterpoint let alone admit you've been mistaken. It's just another drive-by moment for you. So it becomes a pain dealing with you like this. I suggest you cease from commenting here unless you have something apt to say.

  7. I agree with Patrick.

    Thnuh Thnuh is on the verge of being banned. He needs to either stop posting or improve the quality of his posts.

  8. Steve,
    What is your view of mediumship, etc. Are we dealing with communication with departed human spirits, demons impersonating departed human spirits or both?

  9. MSC,

    There are other possibilities. The medium could be attaining information through some other form of psi, like telepathy, there could be some combination of factors involved, or there may not be any way to determine which explanation is the best one. If something paranormal is occurring, that fact is significant in itself, and judging the details of the nature of the phenomena is more difficult. You would have to look at factors like whether the behavior of the alleged deceased individual seems consistent with his known character, whether his purported status in an afterlife makes sense in light of other information we have on the afterlife (e.g., from the Bible), whether a demon seems likely to have a motive to fabricate such a scenario, etc. Regarding that last category, think of some of the common phenomena reported in haunted house or poltergeist cases. Say there's a knocking sound that occurs in some part of the house. What motive would a demon have for repeatedly producing a knocking noise in a particular part of a house? Some form of psi might be a better explanation. Judgments would have to be made case-by-case. And we need to be ready to admit that we don't know the answer in some cases, even many of them. But conservative Christians have a tendency to be too quick to assume the involvement of demons, and people in general seem to be too quick to assume the involvement of some sort of personal agent, like a deceased human. Both of those options should be considered, but so should others.

  10. MSC SAID:

    "What is your view of mediumship, etc. Are we dealing with communication with departed human spirits, demons impersonating departed human spirits or both?"

    Since we have no direct way of accessing the next world, there's no way to say for sure, and I don't we need a one-size-fits all explanation is necessary or preferable.

    i) In some cases it's fraud. Like many "psychics," the medium is good at cold reading.

    ii) In some cases the medium may have telepathic ability. The medium can sense what the sitter is thinking.

    iii) In some cases it may be demonic.

    iv) In some cases it may be possible to contact the damned.

  11. Steve, is there a positive reason why you're open to the possibility of the reality of ghosts? Or do you just have no reason to reject them given the Bible seems to record that Biblical peoples and persons had (rightly or wrongly) the belief in the existence of ghosts (e.g. Matt 14:26)?

    It's interesting to me that Scripture nowhere denies the existence of ghosts. In fact, the OT prohibition of necromancy never attempts to refute the practice by saying it's impossible to contact the dead. The implicit teaching is that there is an immaterial aspect to man's being (and therefore it opens up the possibly of contact with them). Surrounding cultures and religions believed in an afterlife but God never denied its reality either in the Torah or via a prophet.

  12. To my knowledge there's credible testimonial evidence for the existence of ghosts. Of course, one has to sift the evidence.