It has been said that truth is stranger than fiction and that God works in mysterious ways. Gifts can appear at the strangest times in the most unexpected places. Sometimes a gift is in the form of a question. Sometimes a gift is fleeting. And sometimes a gift stays with us forever.
In the spring of 1993, at a conference of the American Psychosomatic Society, I met a clinical psychologist, Linda Russek, Ph.D.
Following the conference, I spent some time visiting this new acquaintance. At the end of our visit, at 4 o'clock in the morning, Linda was driving me to the Fort Lauderdale airport so I could catch an early morning flight back to the University of Arizona in Tucson. For me, what happened then was entirely unexpected -- though I suppose she had been waiting for just the right moment. I now know that Linda offered me a special gift by asking a question unlike anything anyone had ever asked me before: "Do you think it's possible that my father is still alive?"
Fatigued yet intrigued, I wondered why Linda was asking me such a deeply personal and important question.
"I'm not sure," I replied. "Would it matter if I told you that I thought it was possible?"
Her gaze became intense. "Yes," she said.
"Why would it make a difference what I think?"
"Because you're a serious scientist, and if you think it's possible, you probably have a good reason."
Without fully knowing why, I felt compelled to share a secret I'd shared with no one else. "Years ago, when I was a professor at Yale, I stumbled on a hypothesis about how systems store information." I told her that it had led me -- in fact, forced me -- to recognize the possibility that consciousness might survive after death. "But I've never before shared the hypothesis with anyone because it's so painfully controversial."
Excited, she immediately wanted to know more. But the answers would have to wait until I could return to Florida.
Two weeks later, I was back. Walking with Linda on the beach in Boca Raton, I explained: "All systems, in the process of becoming and remaining whole, store information dynamically. Systems are composed of component parts that share information and energy -- from atoms and chemicals, through cells and organisms, to planets, galaxies, and the universe as a whole.
"Mathematical logic," I said, "leads to the conclusion not only that all systems are 'alive' to various degrees, but also that this information continues as a living, evolving energy system after the physical structure has ceased to exist."
Following the logical line of reasoning, everything I knew about physics and psychology forced me to entertain the hypothesis of "living info-energy systems." To put it in a more familiar yet more controversial way, I used the words living souls. (Appendix A offers more on the living soul hypothesis.)
When I first presented these ideas to Linda, I found her skepticism just as strong as my own. Her eyebrows came together in an expression I would soon love and respect, as she intensely searched for flaws in my reasoning. I waited, and watched her try. At that moment, at least, she could find none. Instead, she challenged me about the possible impact of my hypothesis. "Do you realize the implications of what you're describing?"
"I'm aware of some of the implications," I said nervously, "and I'm frankly quite afraid of them."
I soon learned that Linda was driven to pursue this for a very personal reason, the one that had launched the conversation in the first place. She had a longing to know whether it might be possible to communicate with her father. Dr. Henry I. Russek had been a distinguished cardiologist and scientist, beloved by his colleagues, patients, and family. When he passed in 1990, Linda began a quest to discover scientifically whether her father, who had been her mentor, colleague, and best friend, was still with her.
So it wasn't surprising that she coaxed me to pursue the possibility. She urged, "For the sake of my father and my family, we must test your hypothesis. Will you help me?"
Put yourself in my shoes.
You've just confessed a potential scientific bombshell to a caring and beautiful person you hardly know. You're well aware that many of your colleagues at the University of Arizona and psychology professors everywhere would ridicule you and even attempt to destroy your academic career, if they knew that you were actually considering doing research in this area.
But there I was, having fallen in love with Linda's love for her father. I was faced with her dream to know scientifically, one way or the other, whether her father's consciousness still existed.
I looked into her searching eyes and could not resist her pleas that I begin this dreaded research. "Yes," I agreed.
"But only if we don't tell anyone!"
The Research Begins...in Secret
For the next two years, in our spare time, we struggled to define ways of experimentally exploring the living soul hypothesis. Our research was done very quietly in Boca Raton. Some experiments were conducted in the medical office of Linda's late father. Others were conducted in Linda's condominium, and one in her mother's condominium.
Over a period of two years, we did some twenty different experiments. In one series, for example, using complex Hewlett-Packard spectrum analyzers and Lexicor 24-channel brain wave machines, I measured Linda's vital signs and brain activity during two periods: first while she simply thought about her father, and then while she attempted to communicate with him.
We collected a substantial amount of intriguing data appearing to support the hypothesis that Linda and her father could communicate. But these first exploratory efforts were far from conclusive. We began to wonder whether we could design scientific protocols that involved Henry as an active participant in the research -- participating in a role we would come to term a departed hypothesized co-investigator.
"Hypothesized." The skepticism and scientific caution that would underlie all of our work in this suspect field demanded a label that took nothing for granted. Linda and I committed ourselves to a program of systematic research.
I'll say about our experiments in this period only that they produced no publishable science but led to some baffling pieces. One in particular still has us scratching our heads: after an attempt to contact Linda's father in which the spectrum analyzer and brain wave data seemed to suggest that something unaccountable had indeed taken place, Linda mentioned that her watch, which her father had given her, wasn't keeping time.
When I took her watch to a jeweler to have the battery replaced, he discovered to his amazement that her Seiko digital watch was running backward; he and several other jewelers I contacted at the time said they had never heard of such a thing. I'm not claiming that there was a connection with the experiment; it's just one of those ripe anomalies seemingly so abundant in this field that leave you unsure whether to groan or laugh.
At the time of this secret research project, my "day job" was at the University of Arizona as a professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, and psychiatry. To some of my peers, it must have seemed an unexpected place for me, after the more highly esteemed institutions in my background. But there were good reasons. My academic career had not followed a very likely path. As a freshmen in electrical engineering at Cornell, I had realized after only two weeks that I had chosen badly; shifting gears, I graduated four years later from the Arts and Sciences College in the premedical field, with a major in psychology and a minor in chemistry. (My mother would probably want me to add that I was Phi Beta Kappa.)
Starting graduate school, I made another mistake -- choosing the University of Wisconsin because professors in its departments of psychology, psychiatry, and medicine had a focus on an area of interest to me: the fields of psychophysiology and psychosomatic medicine, which is the study of how the mind affects the body. Once again I shifted gears, transferring to Harvard, where I earned my master's degree in clinical psychology and my Ph.D. in personality psychology, and was then recruited to stay on as an assistant professor.
Three years later I was recruited by Yale. At the age of thirty-two, I became one of the youngest tenured associate professors on campus, and was quickly promoted to professor of psychology and psychiatry. My research efforts during the Harvard and Yale years were focused at the forefront of mainstream science in psychology and medicine, in the then-new areas of biofeedback and relaxation (I was an early president of the Biofeedback Research Society as well as founder and early president of the Division of Health Psychology of the American Psychological Association), and in the areas of repression and the relationship between emotions, personality, and health.
I also played a leading role in creating the interdisciplinary field of behavioral medicine. Over the years I've had more than four hundred articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and have presented over six hundred papers at scientific meetings.
My move to the University of Arizona in 1988 came about partly because their psychology department and the school of medicine offered a unique opportunity to do work in evolving interdisciplinary areas of interest to me (and, to be honest, because I was inspired by the culture and environment of the Southwest). And that's where I was, teaching undergraduate courses and guiding graduate students through their masters' and doctoral work, when Linda and I met and began our secret research.
Some Things are Forever
The first step in the new direction my life has taken actually began back while I was a professor at Yale, on a trip to Vancouver, Canada, to deliver an invited lecture.
During one sleepless night on that trip, as I stood at my hotel window looking out at the stars and the light coming from other windows in my view, the thought came to me that starlight, traveling in space forever, could be interpreted as an expression of immortality. At the time I was reading a book about quantum physics and the nature of light. The book explained that long after stars have "died," photons of their energy -- i.e., their light -- continue to exist.
Suddenly I realized that the moonlit glow illuminating my body was also traveling into space, albeit as tiny electromagnetic waves. Though the energy of my reflected waves was tiny compared with the moon's, those waves carried a history of my essence. A being out in space, with a sufficiently sensitive instrument of the right design, could clearly detect my photons as they whizzed past.
I asked myself, "What kind of God would allow the starlight from distant stars to continue forever, even after the star has 'died' -- a fundamental premise of contemporary astrophysics -- yet would not provide the same opportunity for our personal biophotons?"
Contemporary astrophysics has advanced to the point of documenting that 12-plus-billion-year-old photons, supposedly from the time of the so-called Big Bang, continue to exist in our present universe. If these cosmically ancient "info-energy packets" persist in the universe today, why can't our info-energy packets persist as well? It has been said that humans are made of the same stuff as stars -- and we share the same energies.
The philosopher-scientist in me wondered, "If there really was a 'Grand Organizing Designer,' and this G.O.D. created eternal starlight, why wouldn't she/he/it/they have allowed our own personal electromagnetic waves -- our information and energy -- to be eternal as well?"
This realization was accompanied by a deep personal revelation, in which I experienced myself as an extended energy being, continuously reflecting visible and invisible light into space. I came to know firsthand how our individually patterned energy is like all energy -- that it extends into space at the speed of light throughout our physical life and beyond.
While the theory stimulates many novel ideas that have challenging and sometimes complex consequences for life and society, it is really quite simple in its core. What I've done is to take a few well-accepted ideas in science and integrate them for the first time. In this sense, the theory doesn't require that we imagine a totally new universe, but only -- as Marcel Proust said -- that we "see it with new eyes." (For the curious, see Appendices A and B for a more extended discussion of the scientific reasoning underlying our research.)
But Some Things Are Difficult to Prove
Some years after that memorable trip to Vancouver, when I set out to help Linda conduct research about the possibility of contacting her father, we were undertaking an exploration that is suspect to most scientists but is, for creative people, a subject of intense fascination. One exploration of the topic lives vividly in my memory. The movie Contact, based on the book by Carl Sagan, provokes the mind as it pulls on the heart. One scene in particular expresses the challenge of documenting scientifically the existence of the seemingly ineffable. And it speaks to the challenge of envisioning and researching the existence of what can be called living energy souls -- or, more simply, living souls.
Midway through the movie we see a scientist, Dr. Ellie Arroway, explaining to the spiritual scholar Palmer Joss, a man of faith, that she requires scientific evidence in order to believe. Dr. Arroway is especially adamant about the necessity of compelling evidence when it comes to belief in the existence of God.
I understood the Dr. Arroway character well because I was trained to look at the world as an intellectual, a scientist. In science we hypothesize; we do not believe. And science ultimately does not establish "proof" so much as provide evidence for or against a hypothesis. I learned the philosophy and methods of science effectively and have taught them for years, so I empathized with Dr. Arroway's position.
As the scene progresses the spiritual scholar asks Dr. Arroway, "Did you love your father?"
Arroway pauses, and then answers, "Yes."
Palmer Joss tosses a challenge, simple and to the point: "Prove it."
Dr. Arroway is speechless. How can she document her love with scientific evidence? Does she need scientific data to prove it to herself? And how can she convince the scientific community that what she knows in the deepest recesses of her heart, through direct personal experience, is in fact true -- that her love for her father is real?
Think about it.
How can you prove to anyone that you love your husband or wife, a child, a friend, a pet? Not by what you say -- people often lie to protect themselves or others. Not by what you do -- we all do some things because they're expected of us rather than because we truly want to do them.
What Reverend Joss was teaching Dr. Arroway was that there is no substitute for having the experience of love -- or, for that matter, any other experience. One must ultimately have the experience for oneself. Everything else is indirect -- a process of inference, of interpretation.
But the deep question arises, how do we know whether the interpretation of our personal experiences is genuine?
Just as it's difficult to determine whether what we interpret to be love is actually love, it's even more difficult to establish that what we may believe are afterlife communications are, indeed, afterlife communications.
Fortunately, just because something is difficult doesn't make it impossible. Linda and I were setting out on a journey of discovery not only about human experiences of love and the afterlife but about the process of using the methods of science to discover the reality of these experiences and their correct interpretation.
Scientific exploration begins by forming a hypothesis, and then gathering evidence that will support it or will prove it false.
We started with the hypothesis, the working assumption, that science can establish that love exists, that consciousness exists, and that survival of consciousness exists, in the same way that science has established that gravity exists, that electrons exist, and that photons from "deceased" stars continue to exist.
Let me repeat this because it's so important. We were proposing that in the same way science establishes that gravity, electrons, and photons from long-dead stars exist, it's possible for science to establish that love, consciousness, and survival of consciousness exist.
Physics teaches us that it's scientifically appropriate to infer the existence of invisible processes through careful observation in repeated experiments. Just as we scientifically infer the existence of an invisible force termed gravity through the systematic and careful observations of objects falling to the ground, our hypothesis said that one can scientifically infer the existence of invisible living info-energy systems -- living souls and spirits -- through systematic and careful experimentation.
All the research that lay before us as Linda and I set out on this journey would be based on two special gifts that science provides.
The First Gift: Science gives us the capacity to infer the existence of things we cannot see directly through the systematic observation of what we can see. Again, gravity is a prime example.
The Second Gift: Science gives us the capacity to evaluate alternative interpretations of a given observation.
These two gifts from science enable us to cherish all the more our capacity to have personal experiences. Science enables us to go beyond our personal experiences (the first gift) as well as help us interpret all of it, both the visible and the invisible (the second gift).
Harnessing the Power of Science and the Human Mind
Though science is clearly very powerful, it is only as powerful as the human mind that brings it into being. And the potential power of the human mind is vast.
The history of science reminds us that for thousands of years, humans believed the earth was flat. This belief was held by nonscientists and scientists alike. History is replete with common-sense observations that were later revised through the creative courage of women and men of frontier science.
The research I describe in the following pages examines the possibility that our current commonsense idea of death will ultimately turn out to be as "flat" as our past commonsense idea of a flat earth. It also predicts that our appreciation of the "yet unseen" will grow as we research and experience the invisible living energy universe.
For Believers, Agnostics, and Nonbelievers: Do You Wanna Take a Ride?
For those of you who already believe, taking the journey with us will confirm your beliefs. It will give you, as one physician put it after reading our earlier book, "a scientific reason to believe what we already know in our hearts to be true."
For those of you who do not know what to believe, taking the journey with us will help you make a decision about this most fundamental of questions.
And for those of you who do not believe and are in fact convinced that it is "ashes to ashes, dust to dust -- period," taking the journey with us may lead you to reconsider your position.
The truth is that if the results of these studies continue to be positive, humankind will experience a watershed in our understanding of the universe and our role in it.
Having been there myself, I know what it's like to feel that "this simply can't be true." I know what it's like to literally see things with my own eyes in the laboratory and discount them because of prior learning, ignorance, or fear. I have experienced, first-hand, the feeling that "these are the kinds of data I wouldn't believe, even if they are true!" I know intense skepticism first hand.
However, the data appear to be real. If there is a fundamental flaw in the totality of the research presented in these pages, the flaw has managed to escape the many experienced scientists who have carefully examined the work to date.
Our approach is simple: let the data speak. And it's worth remembering, to paraphrase, that "data can be stranger than fiction." Are you ready for the data? As Carl Sagan wrote in Contact, "Do you wanna take a ride?"
FONT SIZE="-1">Copyright © 2002 by by Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D., William L. Simon, and Linda G. Russek, Ph.D.
Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death
The Afterlife Experiments
Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death
THE AFTERLIFE EXPERIMENTS
Risking his academic reputation, Dr. Gary E. Schwartz asked well-known mediums to become part of a series of experiments to prove, or disprove, the existence of an afterlife. This riveting narrative, with electrifying transcripts, documents stringently monitored experiments in which mediums attempted to contact dead friends and relatives of "sitters" who were masked from view and never spoke, depriving the mediums of any cues.
Here are the results that awed sitters and researchers alike: a revelation about a son's suicide, what a deceased father wanted to say about his last days in a coma, the transformation of a man's lifelong doubts about the afterlife, and, most amazing of all, a forecast of a beloved spouse's death. Forced by data to abandon skepticism, Schwartz presents this amazing account of his groundbreaking work, compelling from first page to last.