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Posted on Saturday, October 29 - 2005

" Belief in ghosts and the survival of some immaterial essence beyond the span of human life dates back thousands of years.Ancient Egyptians would visit the family plots of departed relations to provide food and clothing for the journey beyond, and Enlightenment era-scientists conducted gh..."

Ghosts and the Afterlife

Belief in ghosts and the survival of some immaterial essence beyond the span of human life dates back thousands of years.Ancient Egyptians would visit the family plots of departed relations to provide food and clothing for the journey beyond, and Enlightenment era-scientists conducted ghoulish experiments to determine the precise location of the soul. At the start of the 20th century, Duncan Macdougall, a respected surgeon, thought he had determined the precise weight of the soul by using an ornate Fairbanks scale to track weight loss as people died.Most religions tell us that the soul goes somewhere after death — traveling to heaven, hell, or a pleasant afterlife resort;reincarnating into a new body; or remaining in the ground until the Second Coming.

Obviously, they can’t all be right. But solid evidence is tough to find, and despite some credible research conducted by scientists, the results have been inconclusive so far. In a new book on attempts to settle the question, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, author Mary Roach ultimately concludes that although most accounts of reincarnation and life after death aren’t completely convincing, not all can be easily explained away. After a year on the road, visiting labs, observing supposedly reincarnated children, and enrolling in a medium school, she ends up by choosing to believe in the possibility of an undefined “something” more. My own research began in the 1970s, sparked by synchronicity and an unexplainable“journey.” After receiving a book by Helena Blavatsky, the famous Russian occultist and founder of the theosophical movement, published in 1888 — the same year as a “lucky” silver dollar I used to carry in my pocket and also the publication date of an unusual antique book that had mysteriously “appeared” in my apartment _— I became curious about what such coincidences might mean. That led to the discovery of a key turning point in Blavatsky’s life: her first encounter with a psychic investigator named Henry Olcott in Vermont. In 1874, Blavatsky followed Olcott to Chittenden, a small town near Rutland, to see the “manifestations” of William Eddy, an alleged medium. Their resulting alliance led directly to the founding of theosophy, an impressive synthesis of Buddhism, occultism, and Western philosophy thatbecame enormously influ......


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