The Reality of Atlantis, part 3 of 3

Continued from part 2:

photo of Edgar Cayce superimposed over AtlantisAfter tracking the story of Atlantis through history and into the 20th century, I did discover where my particular alien-infused, clairvoyant, crystal-powered, clone-making, reincarnating Atlantis memories originated. Though my story had its own unique features, the story itself came from the famed 20th-century clairvoyant, Edgar Cayce.

However, I first began dreaming and writing about my remembered past life in Atlantis when I was eleven or twelve years old — and at that time, I had not yet read anything by or about Edgar Cayce. So the question became “How did Edgar’s story get implanted into my memories? How did the story of Atlantis get from Edgar to me?”

Raised on a diet of Edgar Cayce

I digress: Back in 2003, while I was still struggling to understand my involvement in the New Age, I found Bob Carroll’s Skeptic’s Dictionary site, and ordered a number of his recommended books on metaphysical topics. Since a great deal of my life in the New Age was focused on alternative health practices and alternative diets, I ordered Mystical Diets: Paranormal, Spiritual, and Occult Nutrition Practices by Jack Raso.


Raso presented a bullet list (pp.75-76) of health advice from Edgar Cayce, and some of it was identical to advice I and my family received from the trance-medium Purcell (for instance, the 80-20 rule of raw-to-cooked foods and alkaline-to-acid foods is Cayce’s idea). I’ve since discovered that pieces of the dietary and lifestyle advice I got from Kan Li and Purcell were Cayce-inspired but not Cayce-attributed. I’m not suggesting plagiarism, because it’s pretty easy for people to lift ideas from others without realizing it — but some of the info Purcell channeled from Kan Li was actually was sourced from Cayce.

photo of the pharaoh Akhenaton

The Pharaoh Akhenaton, or, as I knew him, Dad.

And though I hadn’t read any Cayce before I recalled the details of my own past life in Cayce’s version of Atlantis, reincarnation was normal everyday talk in our spiritual group. One of Purcell’s ideas was that our group members had known each other in many shared past lives where we had all worked together to bring about great changes in human consciousness. That’s what we were all doing in Atlantis, and it’s what we did in Egypt at the time of Akhenaton (who banished Egypt’s polytheism in favor of the worship of one god and purportedly paved the way for Jesus). We were also together in Camelot, trying to change things for the better. We got around!

In the late 1970s, before Purcell’s group self-destructed, our present-day spiritual purpose was to raise planetary consciousness before the coming cataclysm (which I wrote about on my other blog: Why did you believe in the end of the world?). Since that prophesied cataclysm didn’t occur, I’m gonna go ahead and say that we achieved our goals (this is a joke!).  You’re welcome.

So, in the span of these three posts, I’ve been able to answer my questions about the real story of Atlantis, the roots of the version I grew up with, and the way that version reached my 1o-year-old self in Northern California. Now that the factual history of Atlantis is more clear, it’s time to delve into the mythological content of this amazingly robust and enduring myth of Atlantis.

Myths of purity and the seductions of nostalgia

The original story of Atlantis was a morality tale, an origin myth, and an allegory about purity, ethics, human nature, political structures, power, and the creation and destruction of Utopia.

Since Plato first told the tale of Atlantis in 500 BCE, the facts have changed (0ften startlingly so); however, the central themes of the Atlantean drama — the grand, romantic notions about purity and impurity, the seductions of power and godhood, the limitations of human nature and political stability, and the creation and destruction of a perfect Utopia — these themes ring out in every new iteration of Atlantean mythology.

It seems that somewhere in our deep, lost, antediluvian past, the mythical island of Atlantis held and nurtured essential truths about humanity. On that fabled island, pure goodness and pure power were given to us freely. An entire perfect island nation was created for us, with everything we could ever want or need right there, within easy reach. Atlantis wasn’t merely an Eden, which lasted only until Adam and Eve became aware of the world around them; Atlantis was a fully realized civilization populated with adult, self-aware, politically savvy god-rulers who had everything going for them.

In the Atlantis mythology, every perfect thing was in its perfect place, and yet we god-rulers managed to screw it up — to the extent that Atlantis was not only taken from us, but destroyed, submerged … obliterated.

photo of a utopian sceneIn each retelling of the Atlantis myth, people seem to be trying to retrieve those pure and perfect things — that paradise, that power, that perfection (or in the case of the Nazis, that fantasy of racial purity), that peace, that Utopia— gifted to us by the gods and then wrenched away because we had so thoroughly let our gods down. Yet in each retelling, each narrator points to very different reasons for the fall of Atlantis.

In Plato’s original tale, the god-rulers of Atlantis — those five sets of identical twin brothers — failed because they forgot they were gods. The ten sons of Poseidon intermarried with mortals and started behaving like self-centered, envious, small-minded humans; ergo, Zeus had to step in and put a stop to that catastrophe by creating one of his own.

The fall of Atlantis was a powerful teaching story in Plato’s time, when the Greeks were essentially creating modern civilization, academia, political science, and the city state. If we want to understand the fears and the longings of the ancient Greeks, we have but to read the original Atlantis myth, since, as George Haight pointed out in his introduction to Francis Bacon’s utopian essays, Essays and New Atlantis, Atlantis is:

“… one of the famous utopias, those accounts of an ideal world in which authors reveal what is wrong in their own” (p. xvi).

In Edgar Cayce’s retelling of the story, everyone on Atlantis was, like him, a clairvoyant. This skill that was so bizarre in Cayce’s lifetime wasn’t unusual on Atlantis; everyone on the island was psychically gifted and spiritually advanced (except for the drone class of subhumans, of course). Atlanteans understood the secret laws of nature and healing; their society was just, egalitarian (okay, maybe not for the drones), and environmentally aware; all of their energy was derived from crystals in a completely non-toxic process; they regularly consulted with highly intelligent extraterrestrials; and their scientists were so advanced that they could solve every problem, cure every illness, and even create life without the need for procreation.

Oh, but you see, this is where the problems began.

The Atlanteans were so advanced, so brilliant, and so psychically adept that they began to think that normal rules didn’t apply to them. Some of their scientists started fooling around and trying to create new species and new life forms. Of course, the priests of Atlantis warned them against this shocking, hubristic blasphemy, but you know how scientists get: they didn’t listen.

And the moral of the Cayce version of the story is that the aliens rocketed away to save themselves as Atlantis and nearly all of its inhabitants were obliterated by a very offended Mother Nature and God.

Edgar Cayce’s version of Atlantis was so rich and wonderful that it became a touchstone in the New Age culture. Clearly, I integrated Edgar’s story into my own memory of my purported Atlantean incarnation, but I certainly wasn’t the only one who did so.  Edgar’s version of the Atlantis myth is arguably as important to people in the New Age subculture as Plato’s story was to the early Greeks.

And in the same way that the original story of Atlantis spoke to — and about — the early Greeks, the New Age story of Atlantis tells us about an ideal world in which the New Age authors reveals what is wrong in their own.

The New Age subculture is, among other things, a conflict culture that arose (in the 1830s and the 1840s) in opposition to prevailing majority Christianity. The New Age culture’s early existence was essentially a protest against established religion, against conventional medicine, and later, against the dehumanizing technological advances of the late 1800s (see Washington, 1996).

Edgar Cayce began his clairvoyant healing career in the first decade of the 1900s. He was a gentle man, deeply religious, and a dreamer (he was called The Sleeping Prophet because he performed his readings in a sleep-like trance) who lived through the intensive changes of America’s Industrial Revolution — and his retelling of the Atlantis myth strongly warns us about the dangers of technology, warfare, genetic engineering, social Darwinism, and hubris.

However, Edgar’s story also connects us to a wondrous source of never-ending life, to a God and an overarching nature spirit that will surely save us from our ignorance and foolishness, and to the continual possibility of redemption.

Edgar’s story of Atlantis tells us that there is hope, even after civilizations are destroyed. It tells us that even those of us who lived on Atlantis and caused its destruction through our ignorance will have another chance (in perpetuity, apparently) to make things right. Edgar’s story also tells us that present day trouble has its roots in the past, and that if we study history and work hard to improve ourselves, we just might be able to make things work this time around.

As I look back now at my remembered past life in Atlantis, and at that loopy story of my selfish alien pelvis guest, I can see that my twist on the Atlantean myth incorporated deeply important elements of my own life story. Atlantis was not just an all-purpose Utopia: Atlantis was my Utopia. Hail Atlantis!

Moving forward into a new Utopia

Utopian mythologies are important in every era, as The Fifth Dimension reminds us. Four decades ago, the Age of Aquarius was going to arrive and change humanity forever. That it didn’t arrive has had very little effect on the mythic imagination, as the 2012 prophecies so clearly showed us.

in 2012, the real end of the Mayan calendar (this time for sure!) was prophesied to either bring total catastrophe or an amazing Utopian evolution in human consciousness — of the kind that I and my ever-reincarnating group mates attempted to bring to Atlantis, Egypt, Camelot, and the malls of Southern California.

The details of Utopias like Atlantis morph and change with changing times, but the reality of Utopia is eternal.


Bacon, F. (1942). Essays and New Atlantis. George Haight, ed. New York: Walter J. Black. (Original work published in 1625).

Cavendish, R. (1982).  Atlantis.  In R. Cavendish (Ed.), Legends of the World.  (pp. 262-267). New York: Schocken.

Cayce, E.E. & Cayce, H.L. (1968). Edgar Cayce on Atlantis. New York: Hawthorn.

Donnelly, I. (1949).  Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. New York: Gramercy. (Original work published in 1882).

Ellis, R. (1998). Imagining Atlantis. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Feder, K.L. (1998).  Lost: One Continent – Reward.  In Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology.  (pp 177-203). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Ferro, R. & Grumley, M. (1970). Atlantis: The Autobiography of a Search.  New York: Bell.

Heffner, A.G. (2002).  Atlantis: the Myth.  Encyclopedia Mythica.  Accessed March 4, 2004 from Encyclopedia Mythica Online:

Keyes, B. (ed.). Plato’s The Dialogues of Critias. Accessed June 13, 2011 from The Mysterious and Unexplained.

Keyes, B. (ed.). Plato’s Timaeus. Accessed June 13, 2011 from The Mysterious and Unexplained.

Lissner. I. (1962).  Atlantis, Fact or Fiction? In The Silent Past: Mysterious and Forgotten Cultures of the World.  (pp. 156-164). New York: Putnam.

Manuel, F.E. (Ed.)(1967). Utopias and Utopian Thought. Boston: Beacon Press.

Mavor, J.W. (1969). Voyage to Atlantis. New York: Putnam.

Morse, J.L. (1959). Atlantis.  In the Funk & Wagnalls Standard Reference Encyclopedia (Volume 3, p. 767). New York: Standard Reference Works Publishing Company.

Neufeldt, V. (Ed.)(1997). Utopia.  In the Webster’s New World Collegiate Dictionary (Third Edition, p. 1470). New York: MacMillan.

Washington, P. (1996).  Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America.  New York: Schocken.


Filed under Metaphysics, New Age, Psychology, Spirituality

16 responses to “The Reality of Atlantis, part 3 of 3

  1. This makes so much sense. I really appreciate your research into where the myths came from and Edgar Cayce’s influence. I remember my psychic teacher leading us in a meditation where we went back to Atlantis and connected with our past lives there. Her teachers must have passed down the Cayce lore.

    • Gayle, I’ve been thinking a lot about the usefulness of my past-life meditations, memories, and stories. And of course, of my dreams of Utopia. In my original Atlantis pelvis alien story, I see that I was working out some really intense issues about what it felt like at the core to have been molested as a toddler. In many ways, there was an alien in my pelvis, and I had a sense of unreality about my body and my present-day life. Thinking and dreaming about past lives helped me widen and deepen my sense of being human — so that I didn’t merely have to be a young girl who grew up right across the street from evil.

      Though my family discovered the abuse and put a stop to it, the police and the courts could do nothing, and we continued to live across the street from my molester for another seven years. I wonder, would I have been as deeply drawn to the Utopian myth of Atlantis if I had witnessed effective intervention in regard to the abuse I suffered as a child? Would I have needed Atlantis if my own world had been more just?

      My work today with empathy — removed from all my old metaphysical, paranormal trappings — is my way to create a better, saner, and more just world for everyone. Now with 75% more reality! Hah!

  2. I have also been contemplating explaining and putting meaning into my old beliefs about past lives and what my psychic told me about them and what I came up with myself. I still don’t know if we come back and live again with the same soul, but I can explain some of the information I got about past lives as true in the sense that it explains some of my relationships and beliefs from this lifetime but were from the perspective of past lives.

    I’m still playing with all this as it has not been that long since I “lost my religion.” I’m keeping what feels right to me and questioning what doesn’t. I really appreciate sharing this path with you.

  3. Gordon

    Karla, I have read all of your blog posts and I commend you for telling your fascinating story. I am finding your thoughts to be stirring me up since I have traveled some of same ground, but in a different order. After studying science and doing graduate work in physical chemistry, I lost my passion for chemistry research and became interested in mystical experience, psychic phenomena, and the like. At my academic library, I had access to journals on the scientific study of the paranormal, such as the Journal of Scientific Exploration, and the Journal of Parapsychology. I also read the Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer magazines. From a scientific point of view, I found the evidence for reincarnation (as presented by Ian Stevenson), psychic phenomena (as reviewed by Dean Radin) and UFOs to be solid enough to convince me of the reality of such phenomena.

    I absorbed a lot of metaphysical information as well, including channeling such as the Seth material, Law of One series, etc. I studied at the Church of Divine Man, and went through the seminary program, a close analogue of the Berkeley Psychic Institute’s clairvoyant training program. I did many readings as I’m sure you did as well. While I did not complete that program, because of too much conflict in the Church, and people being expelled for no obvious reason, I still value much of what I learned there and of course I recognize much of what you presented in your book “Your Aura and Your Chakras” as being similar to what I had learned.

    My viewpoint is that much of what the New Age community believes in is scientifically justified. Not in every detail, by any stretch of the imagination, but the core beliefs such as in the existence of a soul that survives the body, are justified by scientific study. I know that the skeptical community does not accept this, but in many cases I have found their arguments lacking.

    But I also agree with your concerns about where the New Age is now, and it does seem that there is not an allowance for critical thinking, and there is no role for the scientific method.

    I would like to see us move more toward a unification of science and spirituality. I don’t think it is right to throw out all of spirituality and dismiss it as “supernaturalism”… rather I would see the manifestations of the soul as a part of nature just like anything else, but just much more elusive and difficult to verify in a laboratory.

    You mentioned that it was a shock to find out that energy phenomena were not validated by scientific research, and mentioned that some researchers have tried to measure these subtle energies and have not found anything. But that in itself does not prove that the subtle energies are not valid; it only shows that subtle energies are not equal to the known physical energies such as electromagnetism… at least not in the way that those researchers studied.

    There is much that is unknown. If the “soul” does exist, it would not necessarily fit into the standard models of physics, but if it is not measureable in a laboratory, that does not mean that it does not exist.

    There is one thing that is missing from laboratory science and that is the knowledge gained through direct experience. There seem to be some things that are known by the subjective perceiver that cannot be verified by any other means. Perhaps one could start with “I think therefore I am” by Descartes. That is undeniably so, but where is the evidence for subjective inner experience. Similarly, the subjective experience of meditators, or explorers of altered states of consciousness, are not taken into account by scientifically-oriented researchers.

    It seems that I have left science because I perceived it to be arrogant in its dismissal of subjective experience, and its stubborn refusal to examine the possibility of the reality of spiritual phenomena. And it seems that you left spirituality because of its stubborn refusal to submit to the scrutiny of critical thinking and science.

    And yet… what if we both were “half right” and “half wrong”… what if I was wrong to judge the science that I was a part of, and didn’t value it enough to stick with it, but was right about the value of belief in a spiritual reality?

    For example, I would be interested to hear if you’ve looked, for example, at the work of Ian Stevenson into children who remember past lives, and determined if his rigor was careful enough to satisfy you? Then what about the work of researchers studying near-death experiences, or out-of-body experiences? It seems to me that there is solid scientific evidence that supports much of what is taught in, for example, those psychic training programs. However, I do understand that just because reincarnation is a reality, does not necessarily mean that every past life reading done by a psychic is valid. But if reincarnation is real (as I think the evidence shows) then what survives death? If there is a part of ourselves that does not die, then what are its properties and what are its abilities? Does it store memory and information (as pictures) as we were taught? Does it draw experiences to itself based on emitted thoughts, or by virtue of the energetic “pictures” that it stores? Could there be a physics that eventually describes the process whereby our karma and our emotional energies affect each other in ways that are not yet studied or understood by science… these are the questions I think we should be asking now as science changes and evolves in the 21st century…

    I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

    • Hi Gordon,

      Thanks for reading everything I’ve written so far, which gets you an A+ in interwebs etiquette! However, you’re asking a number of questions here, and I’m on a massive writing and editing deadline this week, so let me just say that I’m thinking about things and I’ll get back to you when I have time!

      Some books to consider in the meantime if you haven’t already: Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio. Phantoms in the Brain by V. I. Ramachandran, and Faith, Madness, and Spontaneous Human Combustion by Gerald Callahan.

      I agree with you that the skeptics are not presenting information in a way that can be accessed, and it’s something I yell at them about just about every week. It’s also something I’m addressing in a book I’m working on with a neuroscientist right now. So the work is definitely continuing!

      Thanks again!

    • Gordon, thanks for your well thought out response and questions. That is a lot to think about. I appreciate the story of your path, your conclusions, and questions. I’m still figuring out where I on stand on all this. I know it’s not either/or. Somewhere in the gray area is the truth for me.

      • Hi Gail and Gordon!

        My next post is actually entitle “Learning to be wrong,” and it’s an entree into learning how to think scientifically in a social science context. This is the area that is most helpful, I’ve found, when dealing with personal beliefs and cultural ideologies.

        For instance, though I haven’t found Ian Stevenson’s work on reincarnation compelling, I’m fascinated by his work. As I read it, I kept wondering how much richer it would have been had he involved a sociologist and an anthropologist who could have informed him about the larger social and cultural implications of what he mistakenly sequestered in the personal and psychological realms.

        Gordon, I don’t find that I agree with you that most of the things New Age people believe are true or supported by responsible, peer-reviewed, fully replicated scientific evidence — though I do know that there are many researchers who swear up one side and down the other that they have conclusively proven New Age ideas to be valid. I find the studies to be lacking in both rigor and sociological awareness, and until I find studies that are more conclusive (and that are not performed by openly ideological actors), I’m very content to maintain an open-minded but critical-thinking supported “wait and see” attitude.

        As you undoubtedly saw at the BPI, swallowing these ideas whole leads to a lot of trouble and abuse — and that’s not okay. That’s not something to support, no matter how hopeful the ideas may seem to be.

        Here’s something I’ve lifted from my Facebook Discussions page:

        Hi There!

        In 2003, I ended my healing career so that I could return to college and study the social sciences. I pulled all of the books I control out of print, but one book remained. It’s called Your Aura & Your Chakras: The Owner’s Manual, and the publisher didn’t want to lose it. In July 2010, I added this introduction to the book:

        A note from the author: This book, written in 1997, represents an early version of my work with empathic ability, trauma healing, and the channeling of emotions. I have since moved completely away from metaphysical concepts, and I now understand that my empathic ability is neither psychic nor paranormal. Empathic skills like mine are considered unusual because people are very confused about emotions; strong empathy can look exactly like a psychic skill. However, empathy is a normal attribute present in all humans and many animals.

        After a seven-year sabbatical that included extensive research and a degree in the social sciences, I resumed my public career in 2010. My work is now focused on teaching empathic mindfulness skills that help people interpret the messages and gifts inside their emotions so that they can increase their empathy and emotional awareness.
        While the particulars of my work have changed considerably, the essence is identical now to what it was then: I want all of us to live as intelligently, as compassionately, and as deeply as we can.

        I send you many blessings,
        Karla McLaren

        Okay. I no longer include metaphysical or paranormal concepts in my work, so let’s look at that.

        It’s been a long and intense 8 years, but where I’ve come to is that focusing on what IS happening during seemingly paranormal experiences is thousands of times more interesting than just negating them. You find out so much about the brain, about the social world, about socialization, and about perception.

        The old paradigm of “psychic or fraud,” or “mystical experience or hallucination” is completely unhelpful. Because as so many of us know, our seemingly extrasensory perceptions are often amazingly intense, helpful, unusual, wise, funny, and everything else! If you bop over to Robin Shay’s description of her visions (in the “Energy” thread), you’ll see someone trying to make sense of intense and actual experiences, yet the old paradigm gives her no comfortable way to organize or articulate them. That’s ridiculous.

        So my approach is not simply to naysay things; rather, it is to try to understand what those things mean to people sociologically, psychologically, culturally, and so forth. Also, what do they mean neurologically? What is occurring?

        So as I looked at the lived experience of the chakras and the aura (mine and others), I tried to understand and articulate what it is that people sense. I found no responsible science in support of the chakras, but I think it’s fascinating that the chakras are located at the sites of many of the endocrine glands. How cool it is that ancient peoples discovered them and created a framework to understand their bodies and themselves?

        I enjoyed working with the chakra framework because it gave people an instant way to begin to tune into themselves on many different levels. They could access information about their emotions, their intellect, their capacity to love and be loved, their communicative skills, and so forth. It’s a wonderful way to tune into the knowledge we all have about ourselves, and I think it makes people smarter and more aware.

        However, I’ve found that I don’t NEED the construct of the chakras in order to tune into those things. I can just ask myself. Kinda like cutting out the middle man. I question, though, if I could have developed that level of self-awareness without the construct of the chakras? What other construct works like that?

        So there’s a blessing that needs to be given to the idea of the chakras. It was a damned good idea!

        THE AURA
        Now the aura actually does exist, but instead of being a paranormal or “energetic” construct, it is actually a neurological one that we know as personal space. I read a wonderful book by science writers Sandra and Matthew Blakeslee, called The Body has a Mind of Its Own. It’s about the proprioceptive and interoceptive systems that map our bodies in space and create our “peripersonal” space.

        And as psychologists noted before body mapping was understood, the peripersonal space we have around us is exactly the size of a healthy aura (18 to 24 inches from the body in all directions). So, like the chakra construct that predated the understanding of the endocrine system, the aura construct predated the understanding of the peripersonal system.

        How cool are humans? We have an intelligence that is imaginal in origin (I use “imaginal” rather than “imaginary,” because clearly, the constructs underlying the aura and the chakras are real), and imaginal concepts can be mind-blowingly more valid and truthful than merely verbal information is. If you’ve ever found a perfect analogy or image that represents a difficult human situation, you’ve accessed the imaginal intelligence.

        So, the skills that I developed worked very much within the imaginal realm that we all understand. Meditation and prayer rely upon that intelligence, as do art, music, dance, architecture, and any sort of visionary work people do.

        And I’m still using those imaginal and mindful skills, especially in the work I do with the emotions. The emotional parts of the brain respond strongly to images, nuance, undercurrent, intention, and the kind of underground knowledge we all have about the social world but cannot easily articulate.

        Grounding and focusing are very useful, as is burning contracts, channeling the emotions, and filling ourselves up with peaceful and revitalizing sensations. Self-calming and self-awareness skills are vital to our health and our relationships.

        So I’ve refocused the skills and removed the paranormal explanations, because they’re not necessary. I don’t want people to have to set aside their logical, linguistic, mathematical, and scientific intelligences so that they can read my work. I’d rather they were thinking with all parts of themselves. It’s more fun anyway!

        Thanks for checking in!

  4. Gordon Hogenson

    Thank your for your thoughtful reply. I would be curious to know more about why you did not find Ian Stevenson’s work compelling as a validation of reincarnation. My experience is that he is known as being very careful in his research methods, and indeed, Carl Sagan has also agreed that his efforts were quite sound and that reincarnation is worthy of further study. What this comes down to is that facts reported by many children about a previous life can be verified to be true. How would you suggest the children know so much about the specific life details of people in different villages and families?

    I agree that a sociological and cultural study of beliefs in reincarnation would be interesting, but it is also very significant work to have collected so many cases where objective facts connecting a new incarnation to a possible previous incarnation were verified.

    Also, regarding research into psi effects, you must be aware that in parapsychological research, because of the extreme skepticism about such phenomena, research protocols have been more stringent than in any other field of study. Dean Radin in his book “Conscious Universe” makes it very clear that psi effects have been demonstrated and replicated many times over. It is clearly a bias against the reality of these phenomena that has enabled skeptics to always raise the bar for what evidence is required. If a study is replicated, then it hasn’t been replicated enough times, it seems.

    The reality is that when beliefs are so entrenched, no amount of replication and no amount of rigor will be enough to satisfy the determined skeptic. I can understand a determined CSICOP member not being satisfied with the evidence for psi in some of these experiments, or the evidence for reincarnation, but for you, who have an awareness and experience that you have, to now adopt the opposite point of view, in spite of all the evidence in support of the reality of paranormal phenomena, seems to me incredible.

    It is simply impossible to assume that all these children who had memories of past lives were somehow involved in a conspiracy to put together diverse biographical details of a previous individual. Do you think that their parents collected this information and trained their children to speak about themselves as if they were that other individual in the past?

    I will however agree that, of course, much of what the New Age believes is has not been scientifically proven. The future remains unknown, but I do think that an open-minded science must continue to leave open the question of these phenomena, and not presume to know that these phenomena are false a priori out of a belief in materialism that is not necessarily justified by all of the available evidence. I envision a future science that includes the science of the soul and I congratulate those diligent researchers who have dedicated their lives to replicating and demonstrating that there is more to know and understand about the nature of who we are as human beings than the skeptical community would have us believe.

    I was never involved in the Berkeley Psychic Institute, but I was involved with the Church of Divine Man in Seattle and Everett, which I understand is quite similar to the Berkeley Psychic Institute. I didn’t see as much of the negative outcomes as you described in your blog posts, but they did have their problems.

    I’m sorry if I sound a little confrontational, and I understand that you may not be interested in revisiting or debating the evidence for psi and reincarnation, and that is your decision to make. It is helpful that you’ve acknowledged that you are aware of Stevenson’s work, even if I find it hard to understand what shortcomings you see in it.


    • Hi Gordon! I didn’t realize your comment was in moderation! I read it in my e-mail and then switched up the post I was going to write. I brought over the post called Why I am not a psychic — or a skeptic from my other site (it leads people here). Confusing? Why, yes!

      It’s a fascinating situation being between these two worlds and on the edges of these two conflict cultures. What I notice in both is that the members are what sociologists call “ideological actors,” which means that even if they perform science utilizing the scientific method (which is laughably glorified in both conflict cultures), they infect their work with their unexamined ideologies. Just asking the questions in the way they ask them is infected with ideological bias.

      And let me state unequivocally here that skeptics aren’t scientists. In fact, I regularly upbraid them for this. I am not in any way standing up for the scientism and reactionary naysaying that the worst sort of skeptic brings to his or her ideological crusades. While there are wonderfully awake, empathic, and focused skeptics who bring scientific excellence to their work (Daniel Loxton at Junior Skeptic is one of the best), the skeptical community is para-scientific (think paramedic or paralegal). They are science supporters, science educators, and sometimes direct investigators, but their research isn’t connected to academic institutions and it doesn’t follow academic rules of ethical conduct in regard to human subjects experimentation.

      However, they have been, sadly so, the only people to openly question the accepted canons of unexamined suppositions that constitute New Age beliefs. I am grateful to them, though I walked away from public connections with the movement within just a few months. Their extreme tonal inaccessibility is really a deal killer, and my sense is that it will also be a movement-killer. In fact, it already is in so many ways.

      Right now, I’m working hard on a number of projects at once, so I’m not really available to wrestle it out with you on the subject of Ian Stevenson. I find it interesting that you seem to be characterizing my concerns about his work as an accusation that he and everyone involved was lying. That’s certainly not where I go with my concerns in this instance, because it sets up a false dichotomy that is both asociological and ascientific. These are personal accounts that exist in the realm of local folklore, and bringing in an anthropologist and a sociologist would be my very first forays into examining Stevenson’s work and the claims of his subjects.

      That’s what you do in research. It’s not a sign of disrespect in that world; it’s a sign of engagement and intellectual curiosity. No stone must be left unturned, especially when the only people who are claiming that there is evidence for any sort of mechanism that could underlie reincarnation are openly ideological actors like Radin.

      I understand your adherence to the ideas you are espousing, and I respect your individual position and the traditions you speak for. You have a great deal of company in your area of inquiry. There are many, many people working to prove that the soul exists, that gods are real, that the metaphysical conceptualization of energy is valid, and that psi exists. But note my usage of the word prove in that sentence. This is a clue that we’re dealing with clearly ideological actors.

      On the other hand, we’ve got a small band of people working to prove that these phenomenon don’t exist, and these people, the skeptics, are also clearly ideological actors. I choose neither group. I choose neither ideological position, because both are asociological and ascientific, even if all of the scientific methodological and statistical regressions in the world are thrown bodily into each respective ideological stew.

      There is a concept called “the God of the gaps,” wherein people who require a supernatural underlayment to the world place God into anything they can’t explain. On the other side is what I’m calling “the magical white-coated scientist of the gaps,” which is what people who are infected with scientism place into the gaps in their understanding. I’m saying leave the gaps alone. Let the gaps be gaps. Don’t fill them with anything. Become a friend to mystery, and uncertainty, and the very real likelihood that we do not have answers about this yet, and may never be capable of bridging those gaps.

      That’s where I’m going; that’s what I aspire to; that’s what excites me now. Falling backward into ideologies, no matter how important they are to other people, is no longer an option. I gave at that office, my brothah! I’m not in the market for any new gap fillers. The gap is gorgeous as it is, and it is perfectly fine to say that we don’t know. I’m not disturbed by it at all, and it’s not a position that needs fixing.

      There is a great deal that we do know, and there are many alternative explanations for what the ideological actors in the pro-paranormal community see as incontrovertible fact. On the other hand, there are far deeper and more fascinating explanations for experiences that the ideological actors in the skeptical community wave away as hallucinations or fraud. Because both communities are conflict cultures, they’re missing huge parts of the story. Staying within those conflict cultures makes learning the deeper, richer, and more truly fascinating story highly unlikely. So I ain’t!

      • Thank you for continuing the conversation, I enjoy your thoughts as it is clear you have a sharp, focused mind. I would love to continue the conversation, since you have a unique perspective that one doesn’t find elsewhere, so I will certainly continue reading your blog and posting when I have some thoughts. I am working on a book on these kinds of topics. I understand the appeal of leaving the mystery, but hopefully that should be taken as an encouragement to keep studying rather than giving up on trying to find out. I can see that you are studying in areas you find most fruitful and of course I support that; meanwhile I am digging into the mystery posed by the excellent results presented by Stevenson and Radin.

        If you have a moment, I’d be interested to know how you draw the line between a scientist and an ideological actor. I am familiar with Dean Radin’s book and my understanding is that he is a scientist.

        Radin wrote in his bio on his web site: “After studying these phenomena as a scientist for about 30 years, I’ve concluded that some psychic abilities are genuine, and as such, there are important aspects of the prevailing scientific worldview that are seriously incomplete. I’ve also learned that many people who claim to have unfailingly reliable psychic abilities are often delusional or mentally ill, and that there will always be reprehensible con artists who claim to be psychic and charge huge sums for their “services.” These two classes of so-called psychics are the targets of celebrated prizes offered by magicians for demonstrations of psychic abilities. Those prizes are safe because the claimed abilities of these people either do not exist at all, or they’re much weaker than sincere claimants may wish to believe. There is of course a huge anecdotal literature about psychic abilities, but the evidence that convinced me is the accumulated laboratory performance by people who do not claim to possess special abilities, collected under controlled conditions and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

        There is ample room for scholarly debate about these topics, and I know a number of informed scientists whom I respect who have reached different conclusions. But I’ve also learned that those who assert with great confidence that there isn’t any scientifically valid evidence for psychic abilities just don’t know what they’re talking about. In addition, the rants one finds in various online “skeptical” forums appear to be motivated by fundamentalist beliefs of the scientistic or religious kind, and not by a rational assessment of the relevant literature.

        Honestly that does not sound that different from what you are saying. I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but I would be curious to know what you think of the “ganzfeld telepathy” experiments that Charles Honorton did. It seems me that it is a case where solid evidence was found to confirm information flow between two minds. I think the skeptics have had a hard time with that one, since one of their own (Ray Hyman) performed an analysis of the data and confirm the findings. There have been so many replications of this data that the cumulative statistics in favor of the telepathy hypothesis is millions to one. In any other science other than parapsychology, that would be considered confirmed…

  5. I’m so enjoying this conversation! I’m still in the process of integrating my psychic experiences and methods into less of a paranormal explanation. I like the way you use the “imaginal” label too. I just know that I can “read” myself as well as other people and give them feedback about their energy around issues and it does help them. I know it has helped me tremendously in my own healing and using my imagination in meditation has been very empowering as well. I like to use the analogy of metaphors to gain meaning in life. It doesn’t have to be interpreted as psychic. We have night dreams every day which can be interpreted as messages from ourselves about our lives as well.

  6. Connie

    Hey Gordon,
    Really interesting replys. I’m curious what you are referencing with regard to Ian Stevenson. Could you explain a bit about this?

    I’ve always wondered about renown scientists who follow the Dali Lama. He’d be a unknown boy in Tibet if he hadn’t been located via beliefs in reincarnation; how do those scientists reconcile this. Perhaps there is unknown research going on? Or perhaps the scientists are residing in those gaps Karla has mentioned. Thanks for your thoughtful responses.

    • Gordon

      Hi Connie, well Stevenson was a professor at the University of Virginia and his work resulted in quite a few publications, some by him and others by students and others who worked with him. He has passed on (maybe to reincarnate as someone else !) but his work continues. I think the person who is carrying it on now is Jim Tucker. Search for “Ian Stevenson books” and you’ll find some valuable resources for digging further into this.

      Yes the search for reincarnations of Tibetan lamas is pretty fascinating. While I’m sure most scientists wouldn’t find that compelling as evidence for reincarnation (they would assume he was just a boy with special potential or talents), it is nonetheless fascinating to contemplate the question: how would you recognize a future incarnation of someone you once knew? As you probably know, the Tibetans do it by presenting items that were used by the previous incarnation to potential candidates and seeing if they pick the correct ones.

      (P.S. Question to Karla, are you going to post anything new on your current thinking and works?)

      • Hi again Gordon!

        My new work is primarily on my regular site and in my new books. I’m also back in grad school studying linguistic anthropology and education, so a lot of my intellectual energy is going into that. I say “intellectual energy” now because it is the first week of the spring semester. At about ten weeks in, I simply become a machine that inhales endless studies and exhales papers. Hah!

  7. Connie

    I know the Dali Lama has been a huge impetus in the work of Richard Davidson, whom Karla references often in The Art of Empathy. If anyone has managed a high degree of integration around science and mystery it would seem to be the Dali Lama. He has a great interest in having science legitimize the amazing effects of meditation. He knows the benefits, if scientifically proven, will open the flood gates to a better world…people like things to make sense and be clear, alas, if only it was, but the best we can hope for is a workable theory. I’m so deeply grateful for this research and yet I can’t help but wish that millions of dollars and great minds didn’t have to encourage being silent and looking within. I know that scientists are given grants to study the benefits of say, Tai Chi, and I think to myself, duh it’ll work for some and not for others. It would be great if they could figure out, scientifically, what modality would work for which person. Karla tried to do it in her Energetic Boundaries audio CD by classifying people based on astrology (west and east)…but that one was tough for me to swallow. Thank-you for the attempt, though! What do you think about that now Karla? Is there any validity in that for you? A scientific approach to expedite the search process for personal healing would save people so much time! That would be money well spent! . Part of the attraction with the New Age is that you don’t have to wait for research results. It’s a gut feeling..quick and easy..sometimes effective and well, you know..

    Anyway, I’d love to hear the Dali Lama speak about being chosen. At some point he must’ve said ‘run that by me one more time’. And how does Dr. Davidson make sense of it? If anyone knows of any literature out there where they address this please let me know.


    • Hi Connie, yes the elemental stuff was interesting, but I grew away from it because it didn’t allow for growth and tended to cement people in behaviors. I think personality typing stuff like elements, astrology, and so forth can be helpful for people early on, if they don’t know who they are. But I notice that people often move on.

      When I was looking for a supportive adjunct to my six essential aspects of empathy for the new book, I looked at and discarded dozens of typing systems because they were too essentialist and didn’t have room for growth. The best one I found — though it is theoretical at this point, is Richard Davidson’s six emotional style dimensions. It’s from The Emotional Life of Your Brain.

      And in it, he suggests specific mindfulness techniques for specific kinds of emotional and social functioning. Most importantly, he asserts that people can change. That’s so cool!

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