MY BOOK


After 20 years of research and writing, my book, In Their Right Minds: The Lives and Shared Practices of Poetic Geniuses (2015) Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, is available from the publisher in a very well-made paperback edition. Initially a #1 Hot New Release in Neuropsychology and Poetry/Literary Criticism on Amazon.com, it can be acquired on Amazon in most countries, either in print, a Kindle edition, or both. If you are interested in consciousness, creativity, poetry, psychology, and/or the paranormal, I think you will find it an illuminating read.

Immortal Remains: The Evidence for Life After Death

This may seem like a bizarre topic. Actually, it's the name of a book I just read by Stephen E. Braude, professor and chair of the philosophy department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Country. Ten years in the making, this is quite likely the most informed book you'll ever read on the subject from the perspective of a highly intelligent philosopher, not a New Age guru, and it makes connections to creativity you might not have otherwise suspected.

Braude supplies in-depth analyses of famous cases of trance mediumship (or channeling), possession, ghost hauntings, reincarnation claims and near death experiences (NDEs) before coming to a conclusion on the final page of the book. In the preface he describes his own scary experience with a table tipping out messages letter by letter (A=1 tip; B=2 tips,etc.) during a slow day in graduate school with friends, not knowing how frequently this very method had been used in the late 19th century. Yet, anyone who has ever used a Ouija Board under the right circumstances with the right people (for me it was childhood with family), knows you can get messages and predictions for the future.

What I find compelling about Braude's research is the accent on the incredible creativity of the mediums, resembling the output of savants who lack basic forms of knowledge, but have supernormal potential in others. (I discussed some of these in a previous blog (Right Brain News from an Incessant Reader). Pearl Curran / Patience Worth is a prime example. With little education or interest in literature, she was able to produce a huge body of dissociative texts, including poety, novels, short stories and plays, some written in an archaic Anglo-Saxon dialect of Patience, the person she claimed to be channeling. Pearl could even be self-aware, that is, co-conscious: while Patience Worth was dictating a poem she could simultaneously write a letter to a friend.

Braude considers the possibility of rare talents and phenomenal memory coming out in a dissociative state as well as "super-psi," i.e. telepathy among the living that might supply information about people from the past. He makes a further connection to the psychology of the living that would explain their need to make these connections. He does not doubt that telepathy and clairvoyance can occur, citing many examples. He also lingers long on the evidence for xenoglossy, i.e. the ability to speak a formerly unknown foreign language while in a trance.

While he doesn't address the neurology of dissociative states, his mediumistic case studies are a treasure trove of examples of unusually creative possibilites that allow me to speculate for him. A musical savant had the ability to improvise the styles of various composers at the piano, with the right hand playing in one style and the left hand playing in another. Similarly, Mozart could compose a piece by hand while composing a different one in his head. But, whereas Mozart had had intense training, the savant had reportedly never played music before, making it all the more incredible. Comparing the two, I would say that while both had exceptional talent, the savant had a very unusal brain organization, probably with right hemispheric superiority, that allowed her to process musical notes automatically and then replicate them on the keyboard. She was not creating new musical scores; Mozart certainly was.

I know about competence in learning a foreign language, having taught French for over twenty years. Not everyone has the same capacity to pick up a foreign language. Amongst adults, engineers are particularly pitiful, because of left hemisphere dominance that wants every piece of grammatical expression broken down into a hard and fast rule. Children learn the best because their young minds are still malleable to accommodate the new sounds into their spoken repertoire. Even amongst children, some have great difficulty, especially dyslexics who have enough trouble parsing their own language. If we're looking for unusual cases, I can supply a 12th grader who was learning French for the first time, while already competent in Spanish. I had never seen anyone so adept, so fast, in language learning. One day she got up in front of the class and wrote with both hands, simultaneously and backwards. This indicates to me a very unusal brain organization with strong linguistic facility in both hemispheres.

I can only surmise that mediums with unusal linguistic talents are working bi-hemispherically as well as bi-directionally. In another case of Braude's, a child was producing automatic scripts without having learned the alphabet. She had, however, observed her older sister producing automatic writing. She may then have been hyperlexic, with the supernormal ability to decode patterns in letters and words precociously. Telepathy can play a role too. Often when a foreign language is produced by a medium, one of the sitters present knows the language, as when Victor Hugo's seance group occasionally got messages in English.

Braude would like to think that all children have these kinds of capacities, but are stiffled by a dreary educational system. True, in part. But I would maintain that a dissociative capacity as well an unusal brain organization would play equal roles. The dissociative state would definitely play a role in releasing the creative hemisphere to invent away with fluency and agility. To exemplify the unusual brain organization argument, Nadia, an artistic savant, was autistic with little to no speaking ability (ten words at age 6), but could draw life-like pictures of moving horses and other animals at age three, comparable to prehistoric cave art of Chauvet and Lascaux, and even to Leonardo da Vinci, who was dyslexic and wrote backwards, by the way. Nadia's defective left brain allowed for hyperability of the visually artistic right to replicate animal imagery from pictorial memory. Furthermore, after intensive therapy in acquiring more language skills, Nadia lost her spontaneous ability to draw her animals. (See also Betty Edwards's book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which teaches you to access the kind of realistic perspective of someone like Nadia, rather than rely on what you think you see.)

Ah, we've peered into the unusal minds of savants and mediums, but we're far afield from the survival of death. I guess you'll have to read Braude's book!

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