Consider this quote:
“When we are faced with information that contradicts beliefs we hold, we tend to reject the information or interpret it in a way that allows us to keep our beliefs: ‘in everyday thinking, the mind is very good at brushing aside information that a logician would regard as being of the utmost importance to correct thinking’ (Campbell, 1989:238).”
It’s funny. I spend much of time attempting to uncover the mysteries of existence and consciousness. I read about the paranormal until my eyes dry up; I devote hours a day to untangling the unfathomable, to trying to make real what seems so unreal. I “ghost hunt” in really scary places, and I find things that I cannot explain. There is so much “evidence” out there that it seems the conclusion is obvious: our consciousness, what makes us who we are, survives death and moves on, either to some alternate plane or dimension or quickly jumps into another body to start the adventure all over again. If you really want evidence, truly, then it is out there in abundance, from credible sources, conducted in scientifically rigorous environments. Trust me. If you want to know if this is all true, not just our collective fantasy of immortality, just read. I will provide the bibliography, but I warn you–it’s extensive. I can’t get through it all, but I’m working on it.
My point is this: it doesn’t seem to matter sometimes that survival has been proven, over and over, in many different fields of research over the last 150 or so years. It doesn’t matter, because if you decide it’s impossible, then nothing will ever convince you. Ever. The science of belief is fascinating, insofar as it shows us to what extent we are capable of denying the obvious, refusing to accept the proof, even when the evidence was collected in a way that we sanction; even if we designed the tests, and they still told us the impossible. When faced with the results of J. B. Rhine’s experiments on ESP that conclusively demonstrated, over and over again, that minds could and did influence each other regardless of distance, a professor who knew Rhine well stated, “Even though the evidence is irrefutable, I refuse to believe it.”
Even as I write this, I can hear the voices of the skeptical crying out that I have made a false claim; yet, if I asked them if they had read any of the texts that studied survival of consciousness, their answer would invariably be “no”. The answer of the skeptic is usually “I don’t need to read books about something that is a priori impossible.” We often do not make decisions based on logic or evidence. In fact, most of the time we make decisions based on security, comfort and familiarity. If something contradicts the beliefs that make us comfortable in our world, we simply will not accept it as true, evidence be damned. We see this phenomenon in politics all the time. When we hear that have lost our civil rights, and are about to lose more, we deny that it could be true. When we hear that the U.S. is defying the Geneva Convention and torturing prisoners, we negate the possibility. After all, we don’t do that. Since we don’t torture, it’s not happening.
Perhaps it’s a form of denial, such as our initial resistance upon hearing that a loved one has died. The first stage is denial, although denial comes and goes throughout the grieving process. We won’t believe it, we can’t: our mind is saving us from the trauma and shock of the truth. Our mind protects us. Eventually, however, if we don’t accept reality, we run the risk of becoming mentally ill, disconnected from the world around us. At some point, it behooves us as sane human beings to accept reality, to weigh the evidence, realize that it points in a particular direction, and adjust our beliefs accordingly. If the preponderance of evidence points to survival of death, then why in the world continue to doubt and question?
In my case, I wrestle with the skeptics in my life and the critic in my head. The critic reminds me that anyone who believes in such things as life after death is deluded and pathetic, an uncritical thinker looking to relieve her dread of non-existence. That voice is very powerful–I grew up with academic materialists, who viewed people like my current self as uneducated and gullible. Some people who read this blog find the whole topic amusing and silly; although I shouldn’t care and it shouldn’t matter, the fear that I could be seen as frivolous or illogical keeps me from fully accepting the consequences of what I know to be true. I hide what I know, or I pretend that my paranormal investigations are “just for fun”–because if I am too sincere in my belief, if I live my life with the knowledge that life doesn’t end, then I open myself up for ridicule.
And that, my dear readers, is scarier than any ghost could ever be.