Occasionally resorting to fraud does not make all extraordinary phenomena fake, but makes life for researchers very hard, and severely hurts the bereaved seeking comfort.
As you don’t know me, please allow me to very briefly introduce myself. My name is Piero Calvi-Parisetti and I am a Scottish/Italian, Western-educated medical doctor and university lecturer. I mention my Western education to stress that I was taught to believe that all you as a physical medium embody simply does not exist. I am not only a man of science, however, I am also a man of reason, and it is reason that compels me to believe otherwise. After more than a decade of passionate study of psychical research, I am now convinced that mind cannot be reduced to the activity of the brain, and that significant aspects of human personality survive the death of the body. So much convinced I am by the “invincible logic of facts” – as Swiss physicist Raoul Pictet famously put it – that I made patient education on afterlife science the main stake of my approach to grief counselling.
As I keep closely following the developments in the rarefied field of survival studies, I have obviously been aware for some time of the activities of the Felix Experimental Group. I was eagerly looking forward to the possibility of an investigation by the Society for Psychical Research, to which I am honoured to belong. Since I heard no news of that, I was delighted to know that Prof Stephen Braude had carried out a series of controlled experimental sessions with you and your circle. I was very disappointed for not being able to attend Prof Braude’s lecture at the SPR in London, when he presented his conclusions, but I was happy to find not one but two comprehensive reports published in the Journal of the Society for Scientific Exploration.
I found the two reports very detailed and perhaps a bit heavy, but quite easy to understand nevertheless. I don’t see how they can have been misinterpreted, with Braude’s report pitched by some as “pro” the reality of the phenomena and Nahm’s “against”. Based on those reports and on what I see as their misinterpretation, I myself have written a couple of articles on my blog. Please allow me to quote from them in order to summarise my two conclusions.
1) I believe that there is currently no normal explanation for the phenomena produced by Kai Mügge during the séances held under strictly controlled conditions. At the minimum, these phenomena represent a massive challenge to our understanding of how the world works. When seen in the broader context and history of mediumship, they may add to the collective weight of the evidence for survival of human personality of bodily death.
2) There is what I personally consider very strong evidence that Kai Mügge employed conjuror tricks to produce at least one phenomenon during a non-controlled séance.
I am now writing to you to share my thoughts and reflections on this state of affairs. Although these are my own, I believe that many readers of my blog who strive to follow reason rather than belief would recognise themselves in what I am going to say. Please appreciate that, with this letter, I am not demanding, expecting or even asking for explanations from you. I feel that I have no title for any of that, and obviously you have no obligations towards me or my readers. I am just sharing my thoughts, from person to person. And, since both of us are in some way public persons, I am doing this publicly.
The first reflection is about my intellectual life. For years I had to wage an internal battle against my education and old beliefs, and slowly surrender to a nonmaterialist view of reality which is fascinating in many ways but also deeply troubling. The reality I came to discover is very, very difficult to understand, to explain, to predict. I do not understand, and therefore cannot explain, for instance, what is it exactly that survives death, how survival works. More specifically, I cannot for the life of me understand how discarnate personalities capable of producing extraordinary physical effects should waste time – theirs, and ours, for a hundred a fifty years! – making tables levitate or trumpets flying around. My grieving patients – as well as my intellect – crave for meaningful, understandable evidence, and we mostly get impressive but meaningless manifestations. This troubles me, intensely.
And now, I also have to make sense of the fact that yet another gifted medium, around which the most extraordinary phenomena manifest, occasionally employs tricks. This adds enormously to my difficulties in making sense of reality. I not only have to accept that utterly unbelievable and inexplicable things happen, I must also be aware that some of these things are not real. Think of having an LSD trip whilst walking on quicksand…
But there is more. The fact that you occasionally employ tricks tells me that you also occasionally fake trance. This in itself is a dramatic spanner in the wheels. Where do I put my boundaries, my thresholds? Is all trance faked? Are you just pretending, all the time, whilst in fact perfectly conscious of what’s going on? Otherwise, I ask myself, how could you fake trance whilst occasionally employing conjuror tricks? I don’t know, I have no opinion, no conclusions, and, most importantly, no judgment. I am just telling you that those “occasions” trouble me deeply and make my efforts to make sense of reality an almost impossible pursuit.
The second reflection has to do with my moral life. As anybody who dares to put the words “science” and “medium” in the same sentence, I am lambasted, ridiculed and generally crucified by the sorry souls we call the skeptics. Please refer to the entry with my name on RationalWiki for a good example. Although I somehow grew used to that, it still hurts. And, do you know what is my only defence against that hurting? My own intellectual honesty. I draw strength and courage by my striving to be as intellectually honest as I can. I am completely available to change my current beliefs on survival should I come across “normal” explanations for the evidence. For the time being, I remain strongly convinced.
But the skeptics do not reason like that. For them, the fact that you have employed tricks just the one time means that all I believe is false, and therefore that I am a gullible idiot, as they have been saying forever. For them, that single, damned D-Lite incident is the living proof that I am intellectually dishonest. My own psychological defence risks being pulled away like a carpet under my feet.
Yet, there is more. I have grown used to being lambasted by the skeptics, and their flames will not dent my own sense of intellectual honesty. What really hurt me badly was receiving the same treatment by a Facebook group to which – I understand – you and your wife belong. After two years in which my articles were warmly welcomed, and “liked”, and positively commented on, I was chewed and spat out in no time for having reviewed Braude’s and Nahm’s reports. In a delirious misinterpretation of what I actually wrote, my articles were said to be “all about skepticism, criticism, debunking and looking for fraud and everything else”. I was accused of being “aggressive” and “on the defensive”. I fully realise that you have nothing to do with this, but who needs enemies when you have friends like these… I am telling you these personal, generally insignificant stories just as a reflection on how an isolated and apparently unrelated “D-Lite incident” can have unexpected consequences.
Finally, let me briefly talk about something which is neither personal nor insignificant. Skeptics will never be convinced. They will keep ignoring and suppressing evidence for anything that contradicts their dogmatic beliefs. A single episode of fraud will be blown out of proportions and used to invalidate masses of compelling evidence. We know it, we don’t like it, but there is unfortunately nothing we can do about it. No, what I am really worried about are the countless people who are in pain over the loss of a loved one, or in fear of their impending death. For many of them, a rational belief in life after life can make the difference between utter desperation and healing, between hopelessness and peaceful acceptance. With most people caught between religious dogma on one side and materialist dogma on the other, helping them developing a belief based on reason rather than on faith can be a major challenge. But we know that such evidence-based belief has already helped thousands around the world. One, one single D-Lite incident can be enough to take all that away.