Instead, I’m going to go back to one of his earlier works – the following is just my opinion.
Duane lived in the very next apartment east of mine. We sometimes met at our common mailbox and chatted. As far as I know, I was the only one who was friendly with him. On September 10, 2001, he died under extremely stressful circumstances. At the time, I did what I thought I could do, but after he died, I was racked with guilt that I had not done enough.
I had been reading Talking to Heaven by James Van Praagh, and watching James Edward on television. They are mediums who bring comfort to survivors from those who have “crossed over.” After he died, I felt like talking to Duane – surely this would be a great time with his body just inches away through my bedroom wall. I clenched my jaws and refused to try to contact him. If my mother wouldn’t answer when I cried out to her, why should my neighbor? Besides, Van Praagh’s book has some serious flaws in it – flaws I was in the process of addressing when Duane died.
One thing Van Praagh wrote that DOES give me some comfort, is his idea that our spirit guides prompt us when we need to do things. Or when things aren’t going right, maybe we should back off and see just WHY they are getting fouled up. If we have a flat tire, and then the radiator boils over, and then we take the wrong exit on the freeway………maybe, just maybe we aren’t SUPPOSED to get to that particular destination that particular day. As my mother used to put it, “I believe in a guided life.”
Duane had known he was going. He had gotten all his paperwork together. He had told his wife he wanted the mortuary to cremate his remains. He asked her for a kiss. He hadn’t asked her for a kiss in years. So, in death, Duane has taken me partially off the hook. I could not have saved his life. He was like me, so I know for a fact he would NOT have wanted to be saved – just to be a vegetable attached to tubes for another few hours. Still………..
Talking to Heaven gave me a great deal to think about. It indicates Van Praagh and I share a few common beliefs. Van Praagh and I were both raised Catholic. We share a common history of fearing the image of God that was presented to us. As Van Praagh phrased it, “if we did something wrong, he would hate us and we would burn in hell as punishment.” I will never forget the day I walked down an isolated country road as a child. The trees on either side of the narrow roadway touched each other overhead. Above their towering branches, an ominous sky was full of darkening clouds. The image that sank into my mind was of a vengeful God, ready to strike me down as surely as a lightning bolt if I so much as uttered an improper word. God was a black cloud of doom – something to be feared, and something that could not be escaped. I left the Church, but that image has never left me.
Van Praagh and I agree that God must surely not be a harbinger of doom and gloom, but one of love and reassurance. We differ, however, in our picture of his true presence. Whilst I have decided he is surely a full-bodied entity with a definite form, Van Praagh has come to a different conclusion. “We all [have] God inside ourselves,” he writes. “We are all God. . . .we are all made of the God spark.” Van Praggh believes God resides within each of us and he does not believe “God is a figure in space looking down on us.” While I agree he is not suspended in space like the dark clouds over my country road, he cannot logically reside in each of us.
We are in absolute agreement that there are “many levels to heaven.” It only makes sense that the earth’s population would be divided into countless segments in the hereafter where people of the same earthly temperament stay together. When Van Praagh says, “We can never go to a higher level until we earn it,” I agree, but I also think there is a limit to this progress. How else would there be justice if we could all eventually end up in the same place, regardless of our conduct? I absolutely agree that “those beings on a higher level can go to a lower sphere, and in many cases, they do just that in order to aid and assist those souls who are not as aware.”
Then come the parts where we disagree.
It it most gratifying to feel the hope and the love that come about as a result of either a Van Praagh or an Edward sitting. The comfort they transfer from the deceased to those left behind is extremely touching. As much as I love the messages these mediums generate…..messages of love and comfort……I have concluded they are fakes.
Harry Houdini was one of the great “medium-busters.” He caught on to their tricks in the 1920s. James Randi has assumed the mantle of debunker for the current age. Both men worked on the assumption that it was all fake, and their was no paranormal effect that could not be duplicated. I’ve read that so-called mediums like John Edward and James Van Praagh use the same methods employed by their predecessors – leading questions. With a great deal of skill, and not just a little luck, they lead their subjects into “revelations” from beyond.
Still. . . . to watch these mediums come up with intimate details and private information no one else knows. . . . oh, it must be true. . . . isn’t it? I wish. By doing a little research, I have learned the secrets of how mediums gather information about their subjects. One trick is to put an expectant audience in a room full of hidden cameras and microphones. As they wait patiently for over an hour, like-minded people are going to share their expectations with each other. Another trick is to pepper the subjects with questions until you narrow down the field to some common information. But my skepticism button was turned on BEFORE I learned of these deceptions.
With Van Praagh, his book spoiled it for me when he started talking about “ectoplasm.” If he had just deleted that particular paragraph from his book, the transcripts of sessions at the end of the book would have been far more convincing. Instead, Van Praagh ruins credibility by declaring ectoplasm “can appear as a gas, a liquid, or more commonly, as sort of a cheesecloth substance. It is colorless, ordorless, and its weight is said to be about 8.6 grams per liter. . . ” Oh, come now! Ectoplasm??? That went out in the age of Arthur Conan Doyle, and Harry Price! It has been PROVEN to be a fraud in every single case ever tested!
If one brick of his foundation is so surely corrupt, then the rest of his building collapses.
But there is more!
Van Praagh also runs through descriptions of things like the Voice Box, Materializations, Apports, and Spirit Photography. My dear man, once again, these tricks were all exposed in the early 1900s! Why on earth would you fall back on disproven methods to convince your audience? Just stick with receiving thoughts from beyond, and you would have me spellbound!
One more question, gentlemen. . . . why is it, that after thousands of “readings” the “signals” you are receiving aren’t becoming more and more clear? After so much experience, the information you are getting should be easier and easier to receive – no guessing. If I were a spirit, I would surely want to make my message clear – I definitely wouldn’t toy with the heart of a loved one!
As the television detective Columbo would say, “Ah, just one more thing. . . . . ” How is it that in a crowd of bereaved audience members, you mediums are not flooded with messages? Every last person in the audience has lost a loved one, right? (Unless some of them are plants.) If the room is full of spirits, how do you filter out the lucky few?
I want these two to be right. I want them to be “connecting” with the dead, but if they are really charlatans – as the evidence would indicate – then what they are doing is very cruel.
The dialogues from Van Praagh’s sittings are wonderous. How I would LOVE to be one of his subjects – to “hear” from my mother. To have her say, “It’s alright, son.” But it’s not going to happen. Instead, I continue to wait. I wait for the time when my mother – or a friendly neighbor – will let me know there is life beyond the grave.