Back Goldfinch looking backwards

Argument 2.3 Mind exists apart from matter, the mixed case.

The Bridey Murphy story, in which Bridey manifests in the con­sciousness of a hypnotized Colorado Springs woman in the 1950’s, is a perfect mixed case. Too bad the story has been so often and so well debunked. However, it is also an interesting case because the debunking has itself been very well debunked, a fact that surprised me when I looked into it recently.

As before, however, I do not think it appropriate in this first presentation of the case for mind apart from matter to argue that her story is actually true. But since there are many stories of remembering past lives, I want to show that on the assumption of its veracity, we do have mind out of body in the mixed sense. Those who agree with that thesis might then want to pursue the question of past lives more carefully to test the evidence.

The Bridey Murphy story in brief is this —

In November of 1952, a 29-year old Pueblo, Colorado housewife by the name of Virginia Tighe was put into a deep trance by a self-taught hypnotist Morey Bernstein in an effort to ascertain whether there was such a thing as reincarnation. Much to Bernstein's surprise, Mrs. Tighe, speaking in a mild Irish brogue, claimed to be a woman named Bridey Murphy, born in the town of Cork, Ireland in the year 1798, and went on to describe in considerable detail a life lived in nineteenth century Ireland. (Source.)

We have, then, the mind of Bridey manifesting in a material entity, Virginia Tighe, without there being anything at all in Virginia (mental or material) that we can find to associate with the manifesting Bridey Murphy, and without there being any external body that we can associate the mind of Bridey with either. If the facts are as alleged, that the Bridey Murphy in Virginia Tighe makes verifiable claims as to life in Ireland around 1800 that Virginia could not possibly have known, then we have a prima facie case for mind very far apart from matter, and we ought to study the many other alleged cases of reincarnation or memories of former lives to see if there is a sufficient number of other cases to persuade us.

But most likely we won’t. Despite the fact that, as Karl Popper put it,

It is only in searching for refutations that science can hope to learn and to advance. It is only in considering how its various theories stand up to tests that it can distinguish between better and worse theories and so find a criterion of progress. (Conjectures and Refutations)

most scientists themselves only pay lip service to this ideal. The truth is epitomized in an anecdote of an unnamed academic told by Philosopher Neil Grossman —

I asked, “What about people who accurately report the details of their operation?”

Oh,” came the reply, “they probably just subconsciously heard the conversation in the operating room, and their brain subconsciously transposed the audio information into a visual format.”

Well,” I responded, “what about cases where people report veridical perception of events remote from their body?”

“Oh, that’s just a coincidence or a lucky guess.”

Exasperated, I asked, “What will it take, short of having a near-death experience yourself, to convince you that it’s real?”

Very nonchalantly, without batting an eye, the response was: “Even if I were to have a near-death experience myself, I would conclude that I was hallucinating, rather than believe that my mind can exist independently of my brain.”

While I think non-scientist men and women are more likely to be open to examining evidence that runs against the current scientific world view, they are surely not more open to examining evidence that conflicts with their own world views — it’s just that they are less likely to hold the scientific ones.

So the problem is  universal. No one is exempt from the blinders of self-certainty. I have too many glaring examples in my own life to confirm this. My readers likely do not need me to give an instance of this.

I close with a summary from the same Neal Grossman article that I quoted from above:

The evidence for an afterlife is sufficiently strong and compelling that an unbiased person ought to conclude that materialism is a false theory. Yet the academy refuses to examine the evidence, and clings to materialism as if it were a priori true, instead of a posteriori false. I suggest several explanations for the monumental failure of curiosity on the part of academia. First, there is deep confusion between the concepts of evidence and proof. Second, materialism functions as a powerful paradigm that structures the shape of scientific explanations, but is not itself open to question. The third explanation is intellectual arrogance, as the possible existence of disembodied intelligence threatens the materialistic belief that the educated human brain is the highest form of intelligence in existence. Finally, there is a social taboo against belief in an afterlife, as our whole way of life is predicated on materialism and might collapse if near-death experiences, particularly the life review, was accepted as fact.

Quoted in Chris Carter, Science and the Near-Death Experience: How Consciousness Survives Death. Kindle edition.

Also quoted in Carter. The whole article by Grossman is quite interesting on this subject and is available as a pdf on line here.

William James told the same story a hundred years ago. I have read it several places. See endnote 3 for the story in James’s words.

Besides the merely self-blinded, there are the Sophists, those who knowingly make it their business to blind others to the truth — who seek “to make the worse seem the better cause,” and vice-versa.

For an elaboration and illustration specifically in the area of the near death experience, see endnote 4.

On 20120913 I discovered my source was no longer on the internet. Here is the same information along with a brief, clear summary of both the debunking and the undebunking as of the same date. As a precaution against more disappearing websites, I have saved it as a pdf and will make it available on request.