The continued possession of personality after the change
called death. It is a fundamental doctrine of Spiritualism that
Spiritualist phenomena demonstrate survival, and the investigation
of that phenomena has been a major aspect of psychical
research. The emergence of parapsychology represented, in
part, a distinct reorientation of priorities away from survival research.
The basis of survival is the contention that mind can exist
independently of the brain, that thought is not the result of
changes in the brain, but that these changes (as William James
suggested in his book Human Immortality, 1903) merely coincide
with the flow of thought through it. The brain fulfills the
role of an instrument of transmission. Thought transference
and experiments in telepathy furnished the first scientific support
of this contention.
The trance communications received through the mediumship
of Leonora Piper convinced many famous skeptical investigators
that the communicators had survived the change of
death. Even Eleanor Sidgwick admitted in her brilliant but extremely
skeptical study of Piper’s phenomena ‘‘Veridical communications
are received, some of which, there is good reason
to believe, come from the dead, and therefore imply a genuine
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Survival
communicator in the background.’’ (Proceedings of the Society
for Psychical Research, vol. 28, December 1915, p. 204.)
The arguments for and against survival are mainly centered
around the evidential value of such communications. The first
and most powerful point of attack is made on the subconscious
front. The communicating personality is said to be artificial, a
masquerading secondary self, and that supernormal information
lies occasionally within the bounds of acquisition of the
subconscious mind.
It is also pointed out that many of the communications are
erroneous, of a lying nature, uncharacteristic of the dead, and
easily obtainable by fraudulent means.
Those who argue for survival deny the sufficiency of subconscious
powers as an explanation for communications, pointing
to the distinct personalities of the communicators, their greatly
differing abilities to communicate, their recognition of old
friends, their behavior, temper, memories, and ability to give
information outside the mind of everybody present and perhaps
of everybody living.
They also point out the inconsistency of the telepathic theory
in that it gradually leads to the supposition of a cosmic mind
that is tapped by the telepathist, forming thereby a more farreaching
and less justified theory than individual survival. As
evidence against telepathy, the results of some crosscorrespondences
and book (and newspaper) tests are quoted.
Philosophic speculation has often supported the concept of
survival. P. G. Tait and Balfour Stewart posit in their book, The
Unseen Universe (1875), that the main realities of the universe
are not in matter at all, but in the ether of space. Although the
concept of the ether has since been refuted, the enigma of the
relationship between matter and consciousness remains, and it
is feasible that consciousness continues to survive the death and
disintegrating changes of the physical body. This implies that
consciousness is a superior system to matter.
According to Sir Oliver Lodge, ‘‘the marvel is that we are
associated with matter at all . . . I used to say that death was an
adventure to which we might look forward. So it is; but I believe
that really and truly it is earth-life that is the adventure. It is this
earth-life that has been the strange and exceptional thing. The
wonder is that we ever succeeded in entering a matter body at
all. Many fail.’’ (Phantom Walls, 1929). In the same book he also
considers the possibility of grades of survival, stating
‘‘Now survival only applies to things that really exist. If there
is no individuality, then there is nothing to persist. Whether all
human beings have sufficient personality to make their individual
persistence likely is a question that may be argued. Whether
some of the higher animals have acquired a kind of individuality,
a character and wealth of affection which seem worthy of
continued existence, may also be argued. There may be many
grades of personality, and accordingly there may be many
grades of survival.’’
The subjective experience of out-of-the-body travel or astral
projection is often cited as presumptive evidence that the
personality can exist independently of the body.
Baird, Alexander T. One Hundred Cases for Survival After
Death. New York Bernard Ackerman, 1944.
Beard, Paul. Survival of Death For and Against. London
Hodder and Stoughton, 1966.
Broad, C. D. Personal Identity and Survival. London Society
for Psychical Research, 1968.
Crookall, Robert. Case-Book of Astral Projection, 545–746.
New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1972.
Ducasse, C. J. A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life After
Death. Springfield, Ill. Charles C. Thomas, 1961.
Garrett, Eileen J., ed. Does Man Survive Death A Symposium.
New York Helix Press, 1957.
Hart, Hornell. The Enigma of Survival The Case For and
Against an After Life. Springfield, Ill. Charles C. Thomas, 1959.
Jacobson, Nils Olof. Life Without Death On Parapsychology,
Mysticism and the Question of Survival. New York Delacorte
Press, 1973. Reprint, London Turnstone Books, 1974.
Myers, F. H. Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily
Death. 2 vols. London Longmans, Green, 1903. Reprint, New
York Arno Press, 1975.
Rogo, D. Scott. Welcoming Silence A Study of Psychical Phenomena
and Survival of Death. New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Books, 1973.
Salter, W. H. Zoar; or, The Evidence of Psychical Research Concerning
Survival. London Sidgwick & Jackson, 1961.
Saltmarsh, H. F. Evidence of Personal Survival From Cross Correspondences.
London G. Bell, 1939.
Smith, Susy. Life is Forever Evidence for Survival After Death.
New York G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1974.