Greg Taylor, founder of the web magazine The Daily Grail, has a new book out called Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife which provides an overview of the current state of research on the question of continued consciousness after physical death. Although not central to the book's investigation, mediumship is one of the areas that has seen more testing lately, including study's such as the recent one conducted by Dean Radin, Julie Beischel and their co-authors on physiological correlates to mediumistic state.
Prior studies have focused on statistical scoring to assess the accuracy of messages received from mediums, but as Taylor mentions in a recent post:
"I devote a chapter to the subject of mediumship, and how science should best approach investigation of this controversial area. One of the elements that I talk about is the so-called 'dazzle shot', where a medium hits on a single, idiosyncratic piece of information that is so specific that the sitter is convinced the reading is coming from a loved one, even if sometimes the rest of the sitting is non-evidential in tone. I feel that previous research which did not take these dazzle shots into account (by scoring readings on the total number of pieces of information that were correct) may have resulted in unnecessarily negative assessments of some mediums, and that future experiments should concentrate on comparing sittings on the overall reading, rather than tallying the number of accurate hits."
I've personally sat through a Spiritualist 'message service,' where a medium stands before a group and presents brief 'messages' from what are claimed to be deceased individuals related in some way to the person receiving the message. What Taylor points out regarding the 'dazzle shot,' is something that becomes much more apparent when you are in the situation and find that among the routine information being presented something comes up that is so specific that it visibly shakes the person receiving the message.
The message service I attended was co-hosted by photographer Shannon Taggart and myself as part of the series of talks related to anomalous experiences that we having been putting on at the Observatory in Brooklyn, New York. Taggart has been covering Spiritualism and seance phenomena in her photographic work, and this provided an opportunity to bring some of what she has experienced to a wider audience. For me, one of the benefits was being able to spend time after the event getting to know the UK medium, Myra Basey, who had been invited to present. It became clear that whatever the source of the information, Basey was being genuine in what she believed was occurring, and in one instance during her presentation she provided information that hit the receiver with visible force.
One of the mistakes perpetuated in the skeptical sub-culture is that in experiencing and investigating these areas the immediate response by 'psi proponents' is that something supernatural, paranormal or even 'magical' is assumed to be occurring. However, when you put yourself in the situation itself, such as attending a message service, the fact that these things are very mundane, everyday and common becomes the truly surprising highlight of the experience. Julie Beischel and Mark Boccuzzi of the Windbridge Institute, co-authors on the recent phisiological study, have been conducting a number of experiments to examine the therapeautic and cathartic affects of mediumship, and have been seeing some provocative results, which follow on results from others who have investigated this area, that show that whatever the source is for the information provided, when it hits, it can have a very positive effect on alleviating some of the pain of the grieving process.
In his post, Taylor provides a couple of videos that are worth taking a look at to see how personally engaging mediumship can become when the information is accurate and surprising. To check them out and see a 'dazzle shot' in action head over to The Daily Grail.
Photo Credit: Shannon Taggart