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Life after death, is the Truth influenced by belief?


The following Article was written for a Polish language magazine

Throughout our recorded history we humans have sought to know the Truth about our existence after death. Do we totally and completely cease to exist? Do we continue to exist within some system based on rewards and punishments for our deeds during our physical lifetime? How can it be that humankind's quest for the answer from the beginning of time, across cultures and civilizations that have come and gone, right up to the present day has not led us to the Truth? As human beings we tend to believe that the answer to the questions about our continued existence after death will be either yes or no. We expect one of these answers to be the Truth. Perhaps the great mystery surrounding life after death has something to do with our lack of understanding the basic nature of the Truth.

Many believe that the answers to such questions will come from our spiritual leaders and our religions. Yet, for all of those that have come and gone throughout our recorded history, and those that remain with us today, no consensus exists between them as the Truth. On the contrary if we look to our spiritual leaders and our religions for the Truth, we find that the Truth depends upon which leader or religion you listen to. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Shintos, Buddhists, Atheists, just to name a very few, have of widely varying versions of the Truth about our afterlife existence. Lacking a consensus among them seeking the Truth becomes a process of choosing between them. What you believe about life after death is in all likelihood a matter of the religion of the family you were born into, or a personal choice often triggered by dissatisfaction with that religion's version of the Truth.

As an engineer I rely on science, and the scientific method, as the best tools for finding the Truth. A competent scientist should be able to design and run an experiment, gather and analyze the data, and arrive at an answer. The results of that experiment, if properly designed, should eliminate all other possible conclusions and lead to one conclusive answer. Other scientists should be able to independently run an identical experiment, under identical conditions, and analysis of their data should lead to a single, identical conclusion. When enough experiments run by enough scientists lead to the same, single conclusion science accepts this conclusion as the Truth.

There was a time when I believed that the scientific method was the best tool to find the Truth for any question. But that was before I gave much thought to the implications of an experiment run by two scientists seeking the answer to a simple question. If I stare at a person who does not know I am staring at them, can they somehow become aware of my staring? It seems like a simple question, and that the scientific method should be able to provide a single answer, yes or no. It was called the "Experimenter effects and the Remote Detection of Staring" experiment and its results point to an entirely new understanding of what the Truth really is. For those of you interested in a detailed description of this experiment and its results they will be found in The Journal of Parapsychology (V61, N3 Sept, 1997: Page 197-208).

Within physical reality we can design experiments that measure properties like mass, velocity, charge, location, volume, and the like and the replication of these measurements by anyone should lead to the same conclusion. For example if we ask the question, does the Sun revolve around the Earth through measurement and observation physical world properties we expect to find a single answer to the question, yes or no. When enough experiments have been run that all lead to the same yes or no answer we accept this answer as the truth, and believe that a Truth arrived at in this manner is objective, unchanging and universally applicable. But in the remote staring experiment it is difficult to know what physical world properties there are to measure that will lead to an answer. After all, there appears to be no physical world explanation for how a person could know that they're being remotely stared at. Fortunately the two scientists who ran the experiment, Dr. Marilyn Schlitz and Dr. Richard Wiseman were only trying to answer the question, "is it possible" not, "how is it possible." Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D. is Director of Research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and Senior Scientist at the Complementary Medicine Research Institute at the California Pacific Medical Center. Professor Richard Wiseman holds Britain's only chair in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He has published over forty papers in academic journals, and gained an international reputation for research into unusual areas of psychology, including deception, luck and the paranormal.

The experiment began as an attempt by Dr. Schlitz to replicate the results of a remote staring experiment previously run by another researcher in the 1930s. The object of the 1930s experiment was to determine if it was true that a person being surreptitiously stared at by another person could detect the staring. The experiment run in the 1930s answered that question in the affirmative, and Dr. Schlitz's experiment confirmed that result. The results of her experiments showed a statistical correlation beyond chance between remote staring and detection of that staring by the person being stared at.

After reading about Dr. Schlitz's experiment Dr. Wiseman attempted to run an identical experiment to replicate her results. But, Dr. Wiseman's results clearly indicated that no such statistical correlation existed! His attempt to replicate Dr. Schlitz's results, using the same experimental design, arrived at exactly the opposite conclusion. At this point something interesting happened. Drs. Schlitz and Wiseman agreed to run exactly the same experiment under exactly the same conditions, in exactly the same location, in an effort to determine the Truth about the detectability of remote staring. In their experimental design they went to great lengths to eliminate any possible source of differences between their results.

In their experiment test subjects were randomly selected from the same pool of people to eliminate potential differences in test subject populations. One of these test subjects was seated in a room, in front of a video camera, reading a book to provide some level of distraction from their part in the experiment. This test subject was wired with electronic sensors capable of detecting changes in electrical skin conductance. A second test subject was seated in a different room, in a different building, remote from the first test subject eliminating any possible physical contact or collusion between test subjects. A television monitor in the room with the second test subject could be made to display the video camera image of the first test subject. Drs. Schlitz and Wiseman used exactly the same computer and software to randomly select the timing and conditions of thirty-two testing sessions with each pair of test subjects. During sixteen of these randomly selected sessions the second test subject was directed to stare at the image of the first test subject on the television monitor. During the other sixteen randomly selected sessions the second test subject was directed to not stare at the image. During these test sessions either Dr. Schlitz or Dr. Wiseman was seated in a third room, remote from both test subjects, thus eliminating any possibility of physical contact or collusion between themselves and the test subjects. The researchers both ran the exactly same number of experiments in exactly the same manner with sufficient pairs of test subjects that their results would be statistically valid.

Analysis of the data from Dr. Schlitz's experimental runs clearly demonstrated a statistically verified correlation between staring of the second test subject and changes in the electrical skin conductance of the first test subject. According to her data, remotely staring at a person can be detected by measuring a physical world property, electrical skin conductance. According to analysis of her data "yes" is the Truth about remote staring. Analysis of Dr. Wiseman's data clearly demonstrated that there was no statistically verifiable correlation between remote staring and detection. According to his data, a person being stared at cannot be detected. According to analysis of his data "no" is the truth about remote staring. Obviously with the rigid adherence to the scientific method the data from these experiments should support one conclusion or the other, never both. Drs. Schlitz and Wiseman refined their experimental design to eliminate any other possible differences that could affect the experiment and reran it more than once in an attempt to have the results arrive at a single conclusion. They never succeeded. In the end these researchers found only one difference they could point to in an effort to explain this impossible result.

Dr. Schlitz believed that detection of remote staring was possible, while Dr. Wiseman did not.

Their experiment has come to be known as one demonstrating the experimenter's effect upon the experiment. It demonstrates that some subtle, as yet not understood, mechanism can actually alter the physical world properties measured in rigorously controlled experiments causing the resulting data to conform to the experimenter's beliefs. A direct implication of these results is that scientists attempting to explore phenomenon for which there are no physical world explanations will find the determining factor for Truth to be what ever they personally believe. And just as with seeking the Truth about our afterlife existence in our spiritual leaders and our religions, lacking a consensus among scientists, seeking the Truth becomes a process of choosing between them. If neither religion nor science can give us the Truth about our afterlife existence, how can we find it?

Through my books and my workshops I teach a simple system concepts, techniques and exercises anyone can use to explore beyond physical reality through their own direct experience. With the understanding that your beliefs will directly affect your perception and your experience you can begin to make adjustments for this factor. Many have already done this and are coming to their own conclusions based on their own direct experience. From my years of exploring and teaching I have formed the opinion that the single, most important key factor that will determine your success or failure in seeking the Truth about our existence beyond that is understanding and dealing with the effects of your beliefs upon your perception.


Copyright© 2006 by Bruce A. Moen, All Rights Reserved


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