TheGroundOfFaithThe Ground of Faith
Exploring Science, Mysticism and Experience Together

November 2007

**"Sensing Murder" is no Scam"**

Editors: The Rev. Michael Cocks and The Rev. Victor MacGill   


**"Sensing Murder" is no scam**

I preach a sermon to myself


“SENSING MURDER” - Michael Cocks

“Houdini knocks their socks off”

Different Kinds of Fundamentalism

The Most Holy Family Monastery: "The Heresies of Benedict XVI"

Rustum Roy: Scientific Fundamentalism the Most Dangerous

Video: multiple videos on science and religion


Interview with Deepak Chopra: Afterlife


Dr Elizabeth Keane (Brisbane Austr.)

My experience with the pendulum 

Rev. Ian Crumpton (Presby. NZ)
Voices on the Margins

Norman Kjome (USA)

Recollections of O.K. Bouwsma

The Western Creed: A belief exercise

Prof. Charles Tart

Book Review

The Sense of Being Stared At by Rupert Sheldrake

By Nate Cull

Bohm and ACIM: Holiness and Wholeness

Nate Cull


Shared Near-Death Experience

I preach a sermon to myself

As an Anglican clergyman I have often been tempted to see people through the eyes of my particular philosophy and theology, through the picture of things that I share with like-minded friends. And here I am at it again, being an editor of a journal, and strongly putting forward a point of view. So I often find myself giving myself a good talking to, preaching somewhat as follows: Would it not be true to say, that the True Church is the Universe, that we are conscious participants in it, experiencing it from a multitude of points of view? That each point of view is fragmentary? What about these quotes from David Bohm's Wholeness and the implicate order:

“wholeness is what is real, and ... fragmentation is the response of the whole to man’s action, guided by illusory perception, which is shaped by fragmentary thought.” Those “who are guided by such a fragmentary self-world view cannot, in the long run, do other than to try in their actions to break themselves and the world into pieces, corresponding to their general mode of thinking”. “This can be seen especially clearly in terms of groupings of people in society (political, economic, religious, etc.). The very act of forming such a group tends to create a sense of division and separation of the members from the rest of the world, but, because the members are really connected with the whole, this cannot work. Each member has in fact a somewhat different connection, and sooner or later this shows itself as a fragmentationdifference between him and other members of the group.” [Read a fuller version of these quotes in Nate Cull's contribution below.]

Of course I agree with Bohm.. but what am I to do? Materialism has split our culture's universe into material and spiritual, and then denied the spiritual. Spiritually minded thinkers cry “Murder!” and hotly present the case for the reality of the spiritual. Should one remain silent? Yet the mere affirmation of spirit seems to confirm the split. A materialistic understanding of human consciousness is refuted, we consider, in Irreducible Mind. Do springs of inspiration and love then gush forth? In a group we exchange theories about the nature of things, while one or more of us are deadly afraid of what would happen if they surrendered to Spirit, the Unknown, and another seems to be seeking to control the universe through use of logic while at the same time refusing to examine the premisses from which the logic proceeds. We take refuge in appealing to authorities and to gurus. But one person's guru is another's poison. To retreat into silent meditation provides no remedy, for our prejudices and preconceptions remain, and our hostility to the mind-maps of others remains unabated.

We seem condemned to live in a fractured world. Yet “peak experiences”, deep meditation, prayer, and those times that we are in loving relationships with others, are times when we are most lifted out of our fractured selves. It must always be good, when we gladly and with empathy hear the stories and thoughts of others. It must be helpful when our internal juries weigh the testimonies of others, yet without coming to final judgement about the rights and wrongs of what we hear. I find it helpful to think of the present moment, each succeeding present moment, as gifts from God (however we conceive that term). And when I speak of the present moment, I truly mean any present moment, war or peace, work or family, science or the arts, the ecologically threatened world, together with the human race, or alone for a while by myself, I see the One, the Whole, God, or Christ as being in dialogue with myself: the present moment is what is being said to me. How I respond to that eternal Thou addressing me, is then the issue at hand. Salvation, or enlightenment, comes when we accept and embrace the present moment, with its delights, its threats, its shames, its pains, as what is given to us, asking for our response.

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  This article has been revised, March 2008

The TV show, “SENSING MURDER” - Michael Cocks

Sensing murder

Their blurb reads: Presented by Rebecca Gibney, the series follows New Zealand and Australia's most gifted psychics Sue Nicholson, Kelvin Cruickshank, and Deb Webber who've impressed audiences with their chilling accuracy. In Series Two Sensing Murder will continue to deliver compelling and engaging viewing, honouring the lives of victims, and exploring the devastating impact on families and loved ones left behind. This riveting programme works closely with police in their ongoing investigations and trails our psychic investigators as they go on unpredictable journey's filled with drama and intrigue, connecting with the spirits and unravelling the secrets behind their murders.”

Reality TV's description of several of the Sensing Murder Programmes, the defence of their genuineness by their director, and by Criminal Psychologist Nigel Latta can be read  here

In case you haven't seen this TV series, two or three especially gifted Australian and New Zealand psychics are not told in advance of the town to which they are going to be flown. On arrival they are told that they are to investigate a previously unsolved murder, and are given a photo of the victim, which they may or may not begin by looking at. The producers of the programme assert that no information other than the photo is given to the psychics. They are continuously filmed throughout the day, and when they correctly sense some detail of the case as being a fact, this may occasionally be confirmed. They are told nothing about the case.  

A sceptical site (  has analysed the programmes very closely, and notes that the psychics seem to get help from time to time, and  questions how the 90 minute programme was put together, when we are told that what is presented is the product of many hours filming. It is the case that the sceptical site is absolutely certain that the psychics are phoney, and that the programme is a scam, and that of course is not the best frame of mind for impartial investigation. Nevertheless, as it is so important to make a proper evaluation of  such apparently remarkable events, we can commend their study up to a point. We can note the renactments of murder, the chilling sound effects, we can discern re-enactment clips, continuity clips, we may see the psychics entering a house, we don't see the producers getting agreement from the occupants of the house for the TV party to enter. The sceptical site discerns times when the psychics are helped, turned to face the right way, and  this may very well have happened.

What is my opinion?  Because I have studied Irreducible Mind, and much of the research literature to which it refers, because I have had paranormal experiences that will stand up to the hardest scrutiny, I do not start from the point of disbelief in the phenomena allegedly depicted in this show. I know that psychic ability is not a physical thing that can be switched on and off like radar. It occurs most of all in times of strong emotion, humour (when our defences are down), crises, high meaning, deep relationship. I dont believe that it can be turned on and off like a tap. In my experience,  any alleged psychic will vary widely in their ability to channel, depending on the situation, and their state of mind. This is why I am not troubled by the suggestion that they might have had some help.

These and the other events that have been reported in this journal for several years, cry out to be recognised by theologians, and the Christian churches: after all Christianity is based on a belief in an afterlife, in a spiritual world, in prayer, in healing, in “words of knowledge”, in prophecy, in an awareness of the spiritual. The basic issue, surely, is not Creationism versus Darwinism, but whether there is a spiritual dimension of existence or not. Surely, this is the key question.

Victor Zammit on Missing Person Tracey Ann Patient I watched this Sensing Murder episode about the missing young thirteen year old Tracey Ann Patient very carefully. The presenter, Rebecca Gibney, informed us of the basic facts. Briefly on the 29th January 1976 Tracey left her girlfriend's home late at night; she was kidnapped, murdered and her dead body was found next morning in a bush some sixteen kilometers away from where she was seen last.
The psychics were to tell us what exactly happened to Tracey Ann Patient more than 30 years after the incident.
The psychics chosen had had to prove their skills by describing details of an obscure murder from a photograph. Deb Webber was one of 5 out of 100 Australian psychics who was able to do this accurately. Sue Nicholson was one of three out of 75 New Zealand psychics who passed the test.
In this case we were informed that only the photo of the victim was given.
No other details of the case were given. The two chosen psychics never met and were not allowed to talk to each other during the investigation. The psychics were kept under constant supervision. The crew only confirmed positive statements they made. They were filmed non-stop in one day.
What did these two psychics come up with?
According to the information given to the viewers:
1. The two psychics related virtually identical information about the case which is summarized below.
2. The information given by each psychic corresponded one hundred per cent with what was known about the case.
3. ... this is a woman … young woman …
4. … she's thirteen years old …
5. … she loves animals … she had a horse … "I'm sure'.
6. … she liked riding.
7. … she's English …
8. … name is …. Tracey … Ann Tracey …
9. … went missing in 1976 …
10. … it was January … before school started …
11. … she had been with a girlfriend (the night she disappeared) …
12. … took a short cut through a park …
13. … I see a car … light colored car …
14. … car stopped … she's walking towards the car ...
15. … he pushed her into the car …
16. … he put something around her neck …
17. … he's white Caucasian …
18. … he's unshaven …
19. … he's got dirty fingers … grease …
20. … (victim) couldn't breathe …
21. …drove her a fair distance …
22. … *something happened in the car … sexual …
23. … something around her throat … stocking! …
24. … man struggling with her in the car …
25. … car in bushland, he got her out … and dumped her, he walked off.
26. … her body was found the next day …
27. … she's taking me to Henderson Valley area …
28. … found near scenic Drive …
29. … lived in Henderson …
30. … (both psychics independent of each other) go through a short cut victim went through on the night of the kidnapping …
31. … (before the kidnapping) she was with a friend …
32. … (Deb correctly pointing the direction Tracey went that night) …
33. … area of home in Dellwood Avenue …
34. … stocking went around her neck straightaway -that's why no one heard Tracey screaming.
35. … (being driven towards the area where Tracey was found, psychic directs the television crew driver when to turn right …correct) …
36. … Deb walks out of the car towards the bush and points specifically where Tracey was found … (Waitaken Range is 17 hectares wide) …
37. … Kidnapper lives locally …
38. … he moved away … went North …
39. … he's got two children … is separated … and his name is …… (Deb Webber gives the kidnapper's full name)…
40. … piece of jewelry missing …
41. … it's a ring …
42. … there's an engraving on the ring …
43. … she left it in the car …
44. … this man works in heavy machinery ...
45. . .. her parents went back to England …
Rebecca Gibney informs us that the information related by the psychics was stunningly accurate – Deb Webber actually naming the killer. The police were able to trace the suspect who is now working as a mechanic. He lives in Northern Henderson as both Deb Webber and Sue Nicholson stated.
The record shows that there is no evidence that the production company tried to cheat and mislead the public or to act fraudulently. Nor was there evidence that the psychics cheated or were into conspiracy with anyone or acted fraudulently.
The film crew, those who assisted in the production and the presenter herself related absolutely no critical information to the psychics and did not act fraudulently in anyway whatsoever. Nothing illegal or unethical or unfair was done. 

Having read this,  we can look at the sceptical website:  and see whether should see what we have just read in a different light.  There is a huge amount to read.  There is merit in some of the observations there, and the general tendency is to demonstrate that the participants "could have" cheated. The problem with this line of thought, is that until the facts are known, almost anything at all "could have" happened. The psychic "could have" forged a cheque, gone to the shops: but in the absence of facts, we are only left with suspicions from which they cannot defend ourselves. 

I discussed this in an email with John  L. Ateo, one of the producers of this website, and he was kind enough to forward what a producer of "Sensing Murder" had written in an email:
 In it the producer wrote, “It is .. the case that psychics often concur ... with police records. However, psychics do not and cannot gain access to police files - therefore they can't cheat. The production crew rarely get access to police files - another fact. Only by contacting the police after a filmed reading will the police confirm or deny questions we put to them. These questions are composed from our analysis of the filmed readings and at this point our investigators (former police officers) make enquiries with investigating police to check the relevance and quality of content. Neither we nor the psychics have access to police files. In the George Engelbrecht case, when the psychic's findings were presented to police, the former 2IC on the case admitted that the psychics had come up with detailed information held in the police files that had never been made public. Superintendent Paul Nickalls (who appeared on the Insight programme to congratulate psychic Kelvin Cruickshank) confirmed that the psychics correctly stated information about the weapons; the offender's shoe-print; the location of the victim's body; where the offender's footprints went in the house; as well as crucial details about a suspect that was originally discounted, but is now being actively re-investigated as a result of the psychic's conclusions, with police hopeful of a breakthrough. Superintendent Paul Nickalls said this information was closely guarded by top-ranking police, was never made public, or leaked to the media, and there is no way the psychics can have obtained it. ...”

Later, the producer describes his own beliefs about what is happening, in this TV series:

I'm the biggest sceptic of all. I directed 8 out of the 16 Sensing Murder shows and was also one of the two associate producers. I am not sure if I believe the psychics communicate with the dead. I am more inclined to believe they have some kind of gift or savant inclination that enables them to see things or tune into passed events. I believe, in fact I know, the crew and production team don't cheat, and do not pass on information. [Elsewhere in his email, the director notes that camera crews are hired at short Nigel Lattanotice at the time of production, and have no other involvement in what is going on.] Nigel Latta ([a psychologist] whose expertise in profiling criminals and liars is indisputable) does not believe the psychics have studied up and retained information about every unsolved case in New Zealand . He was confident he could ascertain through the psychic's body language whether they were recounting previously learned facts. 

"I do not have Nigel's expertise in detecting body language - what I do have is a lot of experience interacting with the psychics. And based on my experience, I do not believe they cheat. They have no networks around them to help research; the psychics appearing on the programme have had or still have learning difficulties and in no way could be described as intellectuals. They are spontaneous, almost child-like people who do heartily believe in what they are doing. I have filmed hours and hours of readings and have been astounded at what has occurred. We as programme makers insist that we totally control the conditions in which the psychics do their readings as far as is humanly possible. Yes, we made errors in continuity when it came to editing, but I categorically refute that the team cheated. The one thing I can't get my head around from your point of view is: if they do cheat - how do they get access to police files? Even we as hardened media professionals have not been able to gain access to police files.”  

The following link gives New Zealand Reality TV's own rebuttal of the sceptics, together with their summaries of the evidence produced by the psychics in each of the episodes.  I also give the text of psychologist Nigel Latta's assessment of the integrity of one of the productions.  sensing.htm 


A sting operation catches Deb Webber:

A recent NZTV TWO “Eating Media Lunch” programme entitled “Sensing Bullshit” shows a sting operation by skeptics, where a single woman consults Deb, claiming to have had a dead husband. Deb duly communicates with the “dead husband” and also  provides information about a non-existent dog. Skeptic Bob Bruce says that “those who flock to Deb are easy targets.. for this scam” and feels that her behaviour is most immoral. View the YouTube clip here. <> This second clip can also be viewed. It overlaps in content with the first. View here. < >A sample trailer for “Sensing Murder”:

What can we say?:

Let's agree that the sting operation shows Deb giving information about a non-existent husband. It looks bad for Deb. But what can we know reasonably for certain about what is going on in Sensing Murder? We can know
1. that when Deb is lied to, as in the sting operation, she comes up with apparently imaginary data. This either happens because she is making it up, or because as Deb said, all she can do as a psychic is to report what comes to mind. From that video clip the most that we can be sure of, is that Deb can be misled by what comes to mind, and therefore with Deb we should be cautious in taking everything she says as gospel.
2. On TV Deb is seen imparting numerous pieces of information, found only in police files. Should we not accept the director's question, “if they do cheat - how do they get access to police files? Even we as hardened media professionals have not been able to gain access to police files.” Remember that it is stated that all the information she is given is a picture of the victim, upside down on a table.
3. If one can't get access to confidential police files, then if the two psychics independently come up with  considerable nearly identical material confirming each other and material in police files, if we cannot reasonably demonstrate fraud on the part of the police, or the director, then the psychics are likely to be genuine.
4. Skeptics point to limited success as if it were proof that Deb and  fellow psychic Kelvin Cruikshank were somehow frauds.  But success is success.
5. The YouTube clip shows Deb, when lied to, reporting intuitions that seemingly have no basis at all in reality. We need to remember however, that what psychics do is report what comes to mind. Sometimes what they say corresponds with some reality, and sometimes it doesn't. The less nonsense, and the more stuff squaring with reality in some way, the better the psychic.
6.  In response to my email, John L. Ateo replied, “We don't accuse Latta of cheating because we have no evidence of such and I believe he is probably just naïve. The director is a different story. The production team definitely cheated to enhance the psychics' skills, but whether the basic info was obtained through true psychic powers, outright cheating or naivety on the part of the production team can't be determined without more information. (Blatant cheating by the production team is far more obvious in the other two episodes we analysed than in the Insight episode). While I personally believe the director is not as gullible as he makes out, all we can do is point out where there is actual evidence of cheating and let the reader make up their own mind. We don't want to be accused of making claims we can't substantiate.”
Comment:Latta... just naive” ie. The title of Ateo's website, “SillyBeliefs” suggests that Ateo has an entrenched belief that the psychics are frauds.  In his analysis of the programme in which Latta reported,  John Ateo believes he detects instances of the psychics being helped. In an email to me Ateo wrote, “Outright cheating or naivety can't be determined without more information” i.e. Ateo gives his game away. In this programme he has no actual hard evidence that there was cheating.
“The director is not as gullible as he makes out” ie. What can Ateo be hinting at? That Geoff Husson, Director & Associate Producer of Sensing Murder knows that the psychics are cheats, and is therefore perpetrating a scam on the public? Or is he hinting that Husson is in cahoots with the police, gaining confidential information from them, and then feeding the information to the psychics? Does Ateo not accept that the police information was confidential, and not available to journalists or to the public? In what way does Ateo consider that Husson is lying? 
“Blatant cheating by the production team is far more obvious in the other two episodes we analysed than in the Insight episode”  In view of the lack of hard evidence for the implied accusations levelled at the psychics and Geoff Husson in the present episode being discussed, it is possible that perceptions of “blatant cheating” in another episode may be equally unsoundly based. But in any case these considerations are not relevant here. Because the issue is whether or not the psychics independently supported each other in producing information that could only be confirmed from police records not available to journalists or the public, and whether they did it in this instance. Whatever their possible sins on other occasions, the question is whether or not in this present instance the psychics correctly independently sense numerous details of a murder, which could only be confirmed from confidential files. Do we trust the testimony of the police to the correctness of what they sensed? Do we trust the testimony of the Director? Do we trust the testimony of the relatives and friends of the murder victim? 

There can be no doubt that there is much that is phony and much that is scam, in psychic research but also in any research where scientists are depending on funding for their livelihood. Human beings cannot always be relied on for integrity. So there is need for some organisation like the Skeptics.  

  “Houdini knocks their socks off”

Those who have been following Victor Zammit's “A lawyer presents the case for the afterlife” may have read about regular materialisation séances in Sydney. In one of these a month or two back, Houdini materialised, and promised that in the near future he would do something that would “knock their socks off”. He would take something to do with Houdini memorabilia in the USA, and materialise it in another country. In October this year, he did just that. In a sėance in the UK, he asked an American to step forward from the circle, with two companions. The American held a dish, and the materialised Houdini dropped this commemorative coin into it.



Harry Houdini – Ehrich Weiss” “Houdini – The great escapist”

It is not yet known where this coin came from. Enquiries are still being made. The coin can be compared with another coin [illustrated below] whose origin is known. Note the different treatment of the hair. You can read fuller details at

Our boggle threshold may be challenged, but if we investigate from Victor Zammit's site, we may be persuaded to accept the possibility of its reality.

Different Kinds of Fundamentalism

The Most Holy Family Monastery: "The Heresies of Benedict XVI"

“The Most Holy Family Monastery” is a small ultraconservative rebel-Catholic group, not particularly stressing love of God and neighbour. What they dislike in the present Pope, may be cause for hope for a more united world. They are shocked by  pictures of the Pope. praying in turn with Moslems,  Jews, an Orthodox bishop and a Lutheran woman pastor. Look through the pdf and see what else they are shocked at, and get an insight  from this negative quarter into how the Catholic church is in fact becoming less rigid, and recognise the work of Spirit in the world in general.

Pope Apostasy

Pope BuddhistPope Imams

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  RoyRustum Roy: Scientific Fundamentalism the Most Dangerous
Every  major religion has within its followers a segment of  dogmatically committed fundamentalists, supported by a distorted interpretation of its theology. Fundamentalists affirm that only their beliefs - often coded in a written text rather than oral traditions - are true. On a small planet with an ineluctably polymorphous cast, now forced by technological developments to interact with each other, all fundamentalisms are dangerous, and the more powerful, the more dangerous. Science-and-technology is the most powerful force under human control; hence, scientific fundamentalism is the most dangerous.

Video: multiple videos on science and religion


In twelve parts. Well worth exploring.

  ChopraInterview with Deepak Chopra: Afterlife

View video

He has published a book Life after death. He believes that all fear is the fear of death in disguise. It is very different in India where Life and Death are punctuation points in the eternal drama of life. At the time he was cremating his father, children were flying a kite in the draught from the funeral fire and there was a wedding being celebrated nearby, thus we have joy, sorrow, mystery together. He was raised in a Catholic school, but had Moslem friends, Parsee and Hindu friends, with them all having a concept of an after life. The picture of Paradise is held in common between religions. All religions have a concept of reward and punishment.
Chopra discusses other matters: the Hindu concept of Karma; Who is the Person? Soul is not a thing but a process including relationships;  it has no location; it expresses itself in a personal embodiment;  it becomes part of the matrix of the memory field of the universe.

There are other interviews of Chopra to be discovered at this site. Alan Steinfeld and others, being the interviewers.

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   Dr Elizabeth Keane (Brisbane Austr.)

My experience with the pendulum

I had a great experience yesterday. Last week a wire screen door had sprung shut on my hand. Luckily, I suppose, it hit my ring and not my finger. Otherwise it could have really injured it. However when I looked down the sapphire at the centre of the ring had gone. We searched high and low outside the door and inside. It had just disappeared. The door opened onto tiles and the pool so there was nowhere for it to be. On Friday I went to the library and noticed a book on dowsing and pendulums - picked it up and browsed it that night. It talked about finding lost objects with a pendulum. On Saturday morning, five days later I tried it. I walked around the tiles asking Is it here? and getting a 'no'. Finally I held it over the pool and got a 'yes.' Then I tried the steps into the pool. A no and then a yes!! I bent over and peered into the water - the sapphire was sitting on the blue fibre glass on the second step, just a tiny blue crystal but I could actually see it under the water. I was overjoyed. It was amazing. So that is my good story for the week.

I am not sure what it tells about Christ. My prayer right now and for the last few months has been "Let that mind be in me which was in Christ Jesus'. [Philippians 2.5] I don't necessarily think that is relevant - but how would I know? I do wonder if a spiritual guide is around listening and helping. The writer of the book I picked up refers to our own intuition and a larger consciousness as a source of the information. It is still a mystery to me. [Email: 24 September 2007]

Elizabeth was awarded a PhD from the University of Western Sydney for her dissertation on Communications from the Dead, in 2006

Rev. Ian Crumpton, Presbyterian Minister, New Zealand

Hearing voices on the margins

Hi Michael,
You raise in your editorial a question which runs deep in our culture. In education for example, are we producing well rounded men and women, or people with abrasive edges? Critics of society, or adjusters to it? We need a degree of both, of course.

I recently saw the film "Amazing Grace", tracing the work of William Wilberforce in the movement to abolish the slave trade. The film - not to be missed - showed how, in time of war, all liberalising movements and trends get stopped in their tracks. Funding strictures in our universities have had a similar effect: those departments offering job tickets in the commercial world attract private sponsorship and business contracts. Students flock to them. These include economics, business studies, accountancy, and the like. Those offering real education, teaching people to think - classics, philosophy, history, literary studies - become the pariahs of academia.

In religion we see the fragmentation of institutional structures - part of a broad trend throughout the West. Shrinking denominations cling to their traditions, as you say, fearfully. But Sister Wendy Beckett
remarked, "Christianity is renewing itself from those who have fled to the margins." That is where we see the creative spiritual insights.

Grounding faith in a contemporary world view, while at the same time challenging that world view, opening people to new dimensions of reality. It's always been like that. Jesus did it in his context. So did Guatama
Buddha. Martin Luther (another good film) was able to do it by virtue of  his location on the margins of Christendom, where he enjoyed two blessings: the protection of a bunch of independent minded German
princes who resented paying taxes to Rome, and the invention of printing. There are plenty of blinkered conformists in our time. Faith calls us to a new open-ness - to other ways of knowing, other ways of being. Those that dominate at present have produced a dangerously unstable materialistic culture. If faith is of the fearful, conservative kind, it is a major part of the problem. We need to listen to the voices from the

- Ian Crumpton

Norman Kjome (USA)

submits this website on

Recollections of O.K. Bouwsma

[A student said,] "I am a solipsist!"  Bouwsma paused and looked at her and then asked:  Miss C., do you have a telephone?"  Miss C. replied: "Yes."  "What color is it?" Bouwsma asked.  "Red," replied Miss C.  Bouwsma looked at the class and said, while quietly chuckling, "Imagine that! A solipsist with a red telephone and no one to talk to!"

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Read The Ground of Faith BLOGSPOT for further reader contributions.

The Western Creed: A belief exercise

Tart Prof. Charles Tart

I BELIEVE – in the material universe – as the only and ultimate reality – a universe controlled by fixed physical laws – and blind chance.

I AFFIRM – that the universe has no creator – no objective purpose – and no objective meaning or destiny.

I MAINTAIN – that all ideas about God or gods – enlightened beings – prophets or saviours – or other non-physical beings or forces – are superstitions and delusions. Life and consciousness are totally identical to physical processes – and arose from chance interactions of blind physical forces. Like the rest of life – my life – and my consciousness – have no objective purpose – meaning – or destiny.

I BELIEVE – that all judgements, values, moralities – whether my own or others – are subjective – arising solely from biological determinants – personal history – and chance. - Free will is an illusion. - Therefore the most rational values I can personally live by must be based on the knowledge that for me – what pleases me is Good – what pains me is Bad – Those who please me or help me avoid pain are my friends – those who pain me or keep me from my pleasure are my enemies. - Rationality requires that friends and enemies be used in ways that maximize my pleasure – and minimize my pain.

I AFFIRM - that churches have no real use other than social support – that there are no objective sins to commit or be forgiven for – that there is no divine or supernatural retribution for sin or reward for virtues – although there may be social consequences of actions. Virtue for me is getting what I want – without being caught or punished by others.

I MAINTAIN – that the death of the body – is the death of the mind – There is no afterlife – and all hope of such is nonsense.

Please note that the Western Creed does not reflect the actual beliefs of the author, or his scientific opinion about the nature of reality. It is a parody of genuine religious creeds, created in order to illustrate the degree to which a distorted form of science, 'scientism' has affected our Western beliefs and values. By experimentally believing this creed and reciting it aloud, preferably with a group of friends, and then discussing how it makes you feel and what it reveals about your deeper beliefs, much can be learned.

[From “Network” December 1993. No. 53]

Book Review

Sheldrake The Sense of Being Stared At by Rupert Sheldrake

By Nate Cull

StaredAt[This book] is another interesting little piece in the puzzle of religion, spirituality and the paranormal.

Sheldrake has become infamous for his theory of ‘morphic resonance’ - which I’m not too invested in either way or the other - but what I find particularly interesting about his work is that in investigating paranormal phenomena (particularly telepathy-like occurrences) he does not focus only on humans, but also on animals. If his findings are to be believed (and I see no reason why they shouldn’t be, if you believe any of this stuff) then animals are at least as good as, and in many cases better than, humans at second sight or sixth sense. And that certainly fits with the pop mythology. It’s a cliche in ghost stories that ‘the cat/dog reacted strangely’. Oscar the hospice cat is a current example. This raises interesting questions about the nature of consciousness and the soul: like intelligence (or potentially sentience), it doesn’t appear to have a hard cut-off point between species, if dogs are able to tell at a distance when their owner is planning to come home. An African Grey parrot featured in the book is apparently able to read its owner’s mind.

(This opens all sorts of weird-science ideas to me. Could we use African Grey parrots in space missions, using telepathic instructions? If a parrot is able to access the psi dimension, which presumably means it has a soul, then what about a planaria, or an e. coli? If we either a) get enough computing power to simulate an organism at the atomic level, or b) develop a teleportation technology (remember, we can already destructively ‘teleport’ whole atoms, preserving quantum state) and get to the point where we can teleport living things, and then want to determine ‘does the process of simulation/teleportation destroy the soul’ - well then, don’t bother waiting until you can send through a human or even a great ape - just run a psi-attuned African Grey through! And see if it behaves the same afterwards.)

One of Sheldrake’s experiments involves the power of gaze: he believes that humans and animals have the ability to somehow detect when they are being looked at intently (or rather, I expect, that it is about the detection of the intention itself - the idea that the universe is constructed primarily of intentions rather than objects recurs a lot in the mystics and in the Gospels - the parable of the Widow’s Mite, for example). I personally have never noticed that I have any particular ability to attract the attention of people by either looking at them or concentrating on them. In fact I feel like I’m spectacularly under-endowed in that department. But the idea is intriguing and it would be easy to run the fairly simple experiments he describes.

Sheldrake also has a fairly weird-sounding take on how human (and animal) vision works; he feels that (in accordance with ancient belief) it involves the eye sending out ‘rays’ to the subject, rather than the processing of incoming photons. This makes absolutely no physical sense, but it does have a certain kind of logic if you view the universe as a computational or simulation system, where the value of a quantity is not calculated until there is a request for it: in fact, this is exactly how the CGI methodology of ‘ray tracing’ works. I am not sure if this is precisely how Sheldrake is arguing, but I can see how (if attention is a real thing, at an underlying ’spiritual’ layer to the universe) focusing one’s mind on a distant object - by means of ‘paying attention’ to the signal path of a physical receptor - could send some kind of underlying ‘probe’ back up the line of sight to the object being studied. So even ‘passive’ sensors could leave an ‘active’ trace on the universe at a subliminal level. Which is a pretty freaky thing when you think about it. It’s the sort of weird aliveness we take for granted in computing - that merely by interrogating an object you can alert it of your presence - but we moderns tend to live under the reassuring assumption that the outside, physical universe is ‘dead’ and doesn’t notice when we pay attention to it, until we start bringing out the sharp sticks to stand well back and poke it with.

This 'deadness' is of course what religion has always argued strongly against - religion is all about the universe being alive, and is why the existence of religion seems so weird and unnatural to the modern mind - but intellectually subscribing to that idea is one thing. Becoming terrifyingly aware that everything you do, in fact every thought you think generates real and literal interactions with the cosmos - not limited in any way by any of the usual physical quantities like space, time, energy or matter - is something else. What does that awareness do to science? If our very breath, less than a breath, stirs worlds - how can we move, how can we possibly have any space to exist as separate beings? Science is all about making sure our sticks are sufficiently sharp and sufficiently long and then poking at will - if it turns out that you can’t make a stick long enough to isolate you from karma, how can we move without hurting ourselves?

Or put a little more bluntly: If we can’t vivisect a cat without scarring our soul, how do we develop new eco-friendly detergents to replace the ones that kill fish?

(The answer would seem to be: we’re not separate beings and it is impossible for us to be. And that an acceptance of deep interaction, wired-in at the lowest levels of physics and sub-meta-physics, does us no harm. And that we have to accept somehow that there exists something more than karma, more than cause-and-effect blowback: forgiveness, release, repentance, centering, whatever it is that allows us to somehow realign ourselves with the True World. And that somehow there are two kinds of science, knowledge of the outer world, and knowledge of our inner selves, and our greatest ignorance seems to lie in the second.)

Click to read this as presented in Nate's Blog, and read the interesting discussion which follows.

Bohm and ACIM: Holiness and Wholeness

Nate Cull

BohmI’m reading David Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order and it’s interesting the very strong parallels between his thought and the ideas in A Course In Miracles (and in Mary Baker Eddy). He is very concerned with fragmentation versus unity - ACIM is concerned with separation versus unity (and goes so far as to identify this with the Christian doctrine of sin).

Some quotations from the first chapter:

It is instructive to consider that the word ‘health’ in English is based on an Anglo-Saxon word ‘hale’ meaning ‘whole’: that is to say, to be healthy is to be whole, which is, I think, roughly the equivalent of the Hebrew ’shalom’. Likewise, the English root ‘holy’ is based on the same root as ‘whole’. All of this indicates that man has sensed always that wholeness or integrity is an absolute necessity to make life worth living. Yet, over the ages, he has generally lived in fragmentation.
BohmImplicate It is important to give some emphasis to this point. For example, some might say: ‘Fragmentation of cities, religions, political systems, conflict in the form of wars, general violence, fratricide, etc. are the reality. Wholeness is only an ideal, toward which we should perhaps strive.’ But this is not what is being said here. Rather, what should be said is that wholeness is what is real, and that fragmentation is the response of the whole to man’s action., guided by illusory perception, which is shaped by fragmentary thought. In other words, it is just because reality is whole that man, with his fragmentary approach, will inevitably be answered with a correspondingly fragmentary response. So what is needed is for man to give attention to his habit of fragmentary thought, to be aware of it, and thus bring it to an end. Man’s approach to reality then may be whole, and so the whole response will be whole.
As has been indicated, however, men who are guided by such a fragmentary self-world view cannot, in the long run, do other than to try in their actions to break themselves and the world into pieces, corresponding to their general mode of thinking. Since, in the first instance, fragmentation is an attempt to extend the analysis of the world into separate parts beyond the domain in which to do this is appropriate, it is in effect an attempt to divide what is really indivisible. In the next step such an attempt will lead us also to attempt to unite what is not really unitable. This can be seen especially clearly in terms of groupings of people in society (political, economic, religious, etc.). The very act of forming such a group tends to create a sense of division and separation of the members from the rest of the world, but, because the members are really connected with the whole, this cannot work. Each member has in fact a somewhat different connection, and sooner or later this shows itself as a difference between him and other members of the group. Whenever men divide themselves from the whole of society and attempt to unite by identification within a group, it is clear that the group must eventually develop internal strife, which leads to a breakdown of its unity…

So fragmentation is in essence a confusion around the question of difference and sameness (or one-ness), but the clear perception of these categories is necessary in every phase of life. To be confused about what is different and what is not, is to be confused about everything.

I’d love to drop in some corresponding quotations from ACIM and Science & Health to point out the parallels, but don’t have time right now. Suffice to say that the ideas which leap out at me here are ‘the world is really one, but at a level beyond what we can sense’, ‘illusory perception of fragmentation’ being (probably) the same thing as ’sin’, and very strongly, the idea that there is only really one choice or classification to be made in this world: between things that are different and things that are the same, and we can’t easily see this at all (possibly not at all without external help, which, however, is readily available as soon as we relax and look away from our immediate surroundings).

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Shared Near-Death Experience


uballeIn the Summer, 1996, edition of the Journal of Possible Paradigms, Issue 4, an unusual shared NDE is described by a woman named Susanna Uballe. Here she describes what happened:

"The experience of co-experiencing death is, I feel, much like a NDE. I did not have a near death experience, but did travel part way up the tunnel with my husband as he left this dimension.

"On Memorial day (observed), May 27, 1979, I was five months pregnant with my son, Christopher. My husband and I rode bicycles and ran errands around town, and it was a very hot day for Minneapolis. I lay down after dinner and was so exhausted that I could barely move. As my husband went to the corner store about 8:00 to buy something for his lunch the next day, I fell into a very deep sleep.

"I dreamt that I was walking with my husband, Herb, up a dark and shady forest path. It was a heavily wooded path, which was enclosed by a thick canopy of trees overhead. The path was slightly inclined, and at the crest of a hill I saw the sky, somewhat like the light at the end of a tunnel. Herb and I had been in deep conversation, about what I could not tell, but I suppose we were reminiscing about our relationship. I felt our very closeness and felt totally in love.

"He began to tell me about what it was like to die; at first filled with rage, pain, and frustration, and upset that the clerk didn't seem to understand his pleas to call an ambulance, that he had been stabbed in the heart and needed help. He said that after a short while, which felt interminable while he was experiencing it, he left his body and floated above it and saw the body below him, and felt detached from it, like it was just a body. He was filled with peace and love. And he felt no pain.

"After telling me this, he then said that he had to go. His feet started to move very fast, and he began to leave me behind on the path. I told him that I could do that too, and put some effort into "powering up" my feet to make them go super fast. I actually started to rev up and move along the path quickly, and felt as if I was traveling up a tunnel of forest toward the sunlight at the top of the hill. As I began to keep pace with him he said "NO!" in a very powerful voice, and I woke up in my bed, feeling hurt at being told no.

"I looked for him, to tell him about my dream. He wasn't there, and his side of the bed showed that he had not slept in the bed that night. It was dawn. I began to get irritated, thinking that he must have gone off with some friends, and feeling upset at how irresponsible he was behaving. I went to where we kept our bicycles, to see if his was there, and it wasn't. I was so angry that I broke the bicycle lock and chain off of my bicycle with my bare hands, (he had taken both keys with him), and set off down the street toward the corner store. His bicycle was near the store, and a patrolman was standing next to it. I asked him where my husband was, and why his bicycle was sitting there. He asked my name and address, and refused to tell me anything more. He suggested that I go back home, and that someone would explain everything to me later. In about fifteen minutes a police officer and a clergyman came by and told me that Herb had been killed the night before.

"The dream braced me for this news, and although I was in shock, I felt assured constantly that he was not in his body, and a comforting presence was with me throughout the next few days of viewing the body, the funeral and other unpleasant business.

"Two days after the funeral, I was preparing for bed and contemplating suicide to join Herb, so that we could be together on the other side or in our next phase of incarnation or whatever. I consciously thought a question, "Should I kill myself to join Herb, or stay here."

"I then went to bed. I was just falling asleep when I felt a presence by my right side, and looked to see Herb, naked and glowing with a soft, beautiful white light. He looked beautiful and I felt filled with love and happiness to see him. He spoke mentally to me, and said, "This is our son," indicating my womb, "Take good care of him." I had no question then about my purpose, and have tried to do the best possible job taking care of my son ever since. It did not at all seem strange that he used the word "son", and, of course, although these were the days before ultrasound, I did give birth to a boy."

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