by Suzanne Carter
Who is Michael Tymn?
You’ve probably heard the name, but aren’t quite sure if Michael is an author, classic book rescuer, blogger, runner, running magazine editor, or general book maven. He’s done all of those things! His blog at www.whitecrowbooks.com/michaeltymn covers a host of fascinating topics, everything from interviews with Professor L. Stafford Betty, Canon Michael Perry, Steve Beckow, Louis LaGrand, and David Fontana to imagined interviews (based on their books) with Sir William Crookes, Frederic W. H. Myers, Alfred Russel Wallace, Rev. William Stainton Moses, Allan Kardec, and Sir William Barrett. Then there are the “mystery of” series (ectoplasm, Patience Worth), “Messages from a Fallen Soldier”, “Confucius speaks?” and so much more. And he definitely gets lots of comments/questions from readers! Michael responds to his blog comments with patience, courtesy, and wisdom accumulated over decades of reading, thinking, writing and observing. His published works include The Articulate Dead, Resurrecting Leonora Piper, Transcending the Titanic: Beyond Death’s Door, Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I, The Afterlife Explorers: The Pioneers of Psychical Research, and The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die.
Michael calls the photo above his “practicing death” pose. He likens the finish line of a distance race to death and recalls the joy and relief that comes after a race well run.
- Because you are well known in our community and have a nice biography on the whitecrow.com website, we don’t need to belabor your background. Still it would be interesting to know about any experiences/relationships that may have inspired your spiritual seeking and interest in the afterlife. Do you have one or two examples to share with us?
I can’t point to any one experience or relationship that inspired me to be a seeker. It just evolved over time, beginning with my early indoctrination in the Catholic Church. I gradually parted ways with the Catholic Church during my 20s and early 30s, but I refused to accept the materialistic view that we are all marching toward an abyss of nothingness and felt a need to identify with some religion or belief system. I tried several Protestant churches, but they didn’t work for me, either. I read Dr. Raymond Moody’s book on near-death experiences in 1976, soon after it was released, and also read other books suggesting a separation of brain and mind, such as those by Carlos Castenada, but I really didn’t get serious about what amounted to a search for meaning until 1989 when I discovered the Edgar Cayce books. They prompted me to read a number of books about reincarnation. From there I went to near-death experiences, and then to mediumship and other phenomena suggesting the survival of consciousness at death. I soon became addicted to spiritually related studies. I’ve come to the conclusion that this pursuit was part of my life’s plan before birth. I don’t know how else to explain my motivation to find meaning in life while so many others ignore the subject.
- You seem to favor the old books and authors dealing with survival and the afterlife. What do they offer that you can’t find in more current books?
The books by the pioneers of psychical research dealing primarily with mediumship – those by Judge John Edmonds, Professor Robert Hare, Sir William Crookes, Sir William Barrett, Dr. Richard Hodgson, Frederic W. H. Myers, Sir Oliver Lodge, Dr. James H. Hyslop and other scholars and scientists from that era – influenced me more than anything else. These scientists and scholars were investigating types of mediumship we don’t hear much about these days. It was all very new to me and I found their research and writings, including those in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, interesting, informative, intriguing, and inspiring. But I also found many books by mediums reporting on communication with the Other Side. Gladys Osborne Leonard, Geraldine Cummins, Elsa Barker, and Cora Scott Richmond are among my favorites in this category. There was no science to the books by the mediums, but there was a certain sincerity and consistency among them that seemed to validate the messages, and they repeated much of what the psychical researchers recorded in their more scientific approaches to the subject.
- What were the most important messages?
The most important message was that consciousness does survive death, though not quite in the humdrum heaven and horrific hell ways orthodox religion has depicted. We are told that there are many realms, planes, or levels on the Other Side and that we transition to a level that we have prepared ourselves for in this lifetime based on what has been called a “moral specific gravity.” The earth life is a learning experience, but we continue to learn and evolve on the Other Side. It’s not harps and streets of gold or fire and brimstone. It’s a very active afterlife. It’s the “real” life. Those who cross over to the lowest levels, what religion calls hell, might experience a “fire of the mind,” call it a nightmarish condition, but they are not confined there for eternity, as orthodoxy teaches. They can enlighten themselves and work their way up to higher and higher levels. Most of it is beyond human comprehension, but that is the gist of it. It is much easier to reconcile with a just and benevolent Creator than what we get from organized religions.
- You refer to it as psychical research. Is that the same thing as the parapsychology we hear about today?
Yes and no. The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was formed in 1882, but the scientific investigation of such phenomena seems to have begun with Judge Edmonds in 1850 and carried out by a number of other scholars and scientists before the SPR came into existence. All of that early research, up until about 1930, was primarily with mediums, although other phenomena were investigated. By the 1920s, the researchers seemed to be reinventing the wheel, coming up with the same result and with the same concerns and frustrations time and again. They could never agree on whether they had witnessed fraud, some kind of subconscious activity, spirits at work, or a mixture of two or all three of those alternatives. Doctors William McDougall and Joseph Rhine became frustrated with it all and focused their efforts more on laboratory experiments involving mental abilities, such as in “guessing” the number and suit of a card or receiving telepathic messages, various phenomena referred to as extra-sensory perception or ESP. They called themselves parapsychologists and avoided discussion of spirits and the survival of consciousness. Removing spirits and survival and associating various phenomena with subconscious activity of the brain made it more acceptable to science and academia, and so what was psychical research evolved or devolved, however you want to look at it, into parapsychology during the 1930s. To put it another way, parapsychology pretty much divorced itself from the spirit/survival hypothesis and has continued to ignore it to this day. At the same time, the pioneers of psychical research died off and nobody had the courage or research funds to replace them.
- Did those pioneers of psychical research consider the subconscious explanations?
Yes, they did. In fact, many of them initially concluded that the “spirits” they were hearing from were secondary personalities buried in the medium’s subconscious and this secondary personality had the ability to telepathically draw from the minds of those sitting with the medium and somehow organize it all and then feed the information back through the medium in a conversational manner. When information came through that was unknown to the sitter, they concluded that the secondary personality had the ability to tap into the minds of anyone anywhere in the world or into some kind of cosmic computer for information. Today, they call it superpsi or Super ESP, but it amounted to the same thing. Here again, it seems like a more scientific explanation and so it still appeals to many parapsychologists. Anything but spirits of the dead, no matter how far-fetched it is.
- What prompted the pioneers of psychical research you mentioned to choose spirits over the subconscious theory?
There was too much personality coming through and even though telepathy between humans is a fact, it is one thing to relay the number and suit of a card to another person by thought, quite another to organize words and ideas into a long dialogue. On top of that there would have had to be a world-wide conspiracy of secondary personalities, all of them agreeing to pretend to be dead people. How did all these secondary personalities collaborate in that scheme and to what end? The mediums could have gained greater fame and fortune by being mentalists or magicians. Most of the pioneers came to recognize this, but parapsychologists just don’t want to go there for fear of damaging their reputations.
- So there is no research going on with mediums today?
Yes and no here, too. Dr. Gary Schwartz did some very interesting research with some clairvoyants and reported on it in his 2002 book, “The Afterlife Experiments,” and Dr. Julie Beischel of The Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential in Tucson, Arizona has been carrying on research with mediums in recent years and reported on it in her 2013 book, “Among Mediums.” Both books offer some very good evidence suggesting spirits and survival, but I personally don’t find the research with clairvoyants as impressive or as interesting as that involving trance mediums, direct-voice mediums and physical mediums, the kind that the pioneers studied. We don’t seem to have many of those mediums around these days. There are some, but they don’t appear to be as developed as the mediums the pioneers studied.
- Why is that?
I think there is too much “noise” in the world today and so mediumship is not as easily developed as it was a hundred or so years ago. Before radio, television, the Internet, and smart phones, even before many books were readily available, people didn’t have much to do during the evening beyond sit in front of a fire place and knit or whittle or sit on the porch and watch the stars. This led to altered states of consciousness for some and to the development of mediumship. Today, people who might be potential mediums never recognize that potential because of all the noise in their lives. I suspect that the noise keeps them from developing to the extent that those of yesteryear did. And few researchers have the patience or funds to investigate them. As I stated, today’s parapsychologists steer clear of spirits and survival. It is much more scientific to say it is all subconscious activity that we just don’t understand and probably will never understand completely.
- Are you still interested in reincarnation, near-death experiences, and other paranormal phenomena? Don’t they support the survival hypothesis?
I believe in reincarnation, but I am skeptical as to whether it plays out in the way that most people who believe in it think it does. I’m content to believe that reincarnation exists but is also beyond human comprehension. Near-death experiences are now cited most often to support survival, although some of the NDE researchers avoid that link, saying that the important thing is that it enriches this life. Yes, it enriches this life, in great part because we see it as part of a larger life and the difficulties we encounter in this life become more bearable. Here too, some of the researchers don’t want to talk about survival as it is unscientific, so they just beat around the bush. But the authors who are not researchers do discuss it. One of the best books in this genre I’ve come across is “Near Death in the ICU,” by Laurin Bellg, M.D., which was just recently released.
- Many people would say we should focus on living this life and not concern ourselves with what comes after. What do you say to them?
Basically, “living in the moment,” “living for today,” “carpe diem,” however you want to put it, translates to Epicureanism – “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” I’m convinced that if you take the time to understand it, the research concerning survival is very evidential, strongly suggesting that consciousness survives death, although not in the way orthodox religion teaches. As William James, another pioneer of psychical research, said, one cannot effectively live in the present without some regard for the future. When you are in your declining years, this is especially true. It’s easy to not think about death and dying when one is raising a family and establishing him or herself in a career, but there comes a time when living in the present depends on your ability to escape into meaningless activities.
- Did you ever have any rare material just fall into your lap? (yes/no; if yes, brief description of how you acquired the book.) If not, what material did you work hardest to find?
Metaphorically speaking, many books have done so. That is, they seemed to come to my attention at the right time, when I was struggling to understand a particular aspect of some phenomenon. There was a time when I spent much of my time on trips hunting in used-book stores for old books on psychical research and mediumship. I made two trips to Hay-on-Wye in England, called the “used-book capital of the world.” They have about 30 used-book shops in a town with about 60 shops in all. On my first trip, I returned home with about 25 books in one suitcase, but that was when two suitcases were allowed. I also had a couple of favorite stores in Berkeley, California. However, now it is just a matter of shopping on the Internet. The Internet has taken a lot of fun out of hunting for old books.
- What are some of the biggest goals/objectives that are driving you now?
As I approach my 80th birthday on April 2, I think I can honestly say that I don’t have a bucket list of things I still want to do. In a way, that is disappointing as I thrive on goals and challenges. I’d like to write another book or two and add to my understanding of the mediumship of old, but there do not seem to be enough people interested in that topic. White Crow has published four books dealing specifically with the old mediumship in recent years – my book “Resurrecting Leonora Piper,” Zofia Weaver’s book, “ Other Realities? The Enigma of Franek Kluski’s Mediumship,” Erlendur Haraldsson’s “Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium,” and N. Riley Heagerty’s “Portraits from Beyond: The Mediumship of The Bangs Sisters,” but none of them, Jon Beecher of White Crow informs me, has done well enough to motivate him to publish any more books on mediumship, at least in the immediate future. I’m slowly working on a book tentatively titled “Just Flush My Ashes Down the Toilet,” although I am not sure I’ll ever finish it.
- Have you found that people seem more concerned about how something is said rather than what is said? (They may believe a blog or Facebook posting or a New York Times article but not a highly reputable medium) If so, can you expound on that a little for us?
The problem is that journalists and authors are supposed to straddle the fence and offer balance in their writing. Dr. Gary Schwartz once pointed out to me how ridiculous this approach is. For example, if his investigation of a particular medium favored the medium, he was made out to be an advocate of the medium and a debunker was called in to counter his testimony. In television presentations, it turned out to be Schwartz and the medium vs. the debunker, the desired result being a standoff and the viewing public uncertain as to what to believe. It should have been the medium vs. the debunker with Schwartz as the judge, the end result being a preponderance of evidence in favor of the medium. All those pioneers I mentioned were called Spiritualists and discredited because they found in favor of spirits and survival. Apparently, they were, like today’s parapsychologists, supposed to sit on the fence forever. The subject matter is just too complex for most journalists to deal with, especially when there are time and space limits in the reporting.
- From your blog, we know there’s a lot more to Michael Tymn than books. What else do you like to do besides being a book maven?
Until a year or so ago, I was writing regularly for two national running magazines. In fact, I had a monthly column in one publication for 35-plus years and in the other for 17 years. I was a competitive long-distance runner during my younger years and combined that with my college journalism major to write extensively about the sport. However, I was losing contact with the sport and decided to retire from those writing efforts. My wife and I used to do a lot of traveling, but last year was the first year in which we never left Hawaii. So outside of reading and writing, I can’t wait for baseball season to start.
On behalf of the community, The iDigitalMedium team would like to thank Mr. Tymn for the decades of passion and persistence he has applied for the benefit of man and spirit. His name is well-known in various circles, and this is certainly well-warranted. Thank you Michael.
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