Dante’s PURGATORY, Canto 31: JESUS






Has human nature

— Both natures at the same time —

Has divine nature




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NOTES on Robert F. Almeder (born 1938): Death is Not the End


Robert F. Almeder is a philosopher who believes that we do in fact survive death. In his book Death andPersonal Survival: The Evidence for Life Against Death(1992), he investigates the evidence for life after death — including such things as ghosts. In fact, a good title for this essay would be “Ghost Stories 101.”

I. Evidence for Life After Death

  1. People Remembering Earlier Lives as Different People

Almeder investigates people who remember earlier lives as different people — in other words, reincarnation — something Almeder strongly believes is true. A vivid example concerns Dr. Arthur Guirdham’s investigation of Mrs. Smith.

Mrs. Smith went to British psychiatrist Dr. Guirdham in 1961 complaining of waking up from sleep screaming. The doctor examined her for neuroses but found none. Little by little, Mrs. Smith revealed that when she was a young girl she had written down strange things that came to her as recollections. Dr. Guirdham examined these writings and discovered that they were written in medieval French and in a language called langue d’oc(“the language spoken in southern France in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries”). He sent the writings to a specialist who stated that they revealed knowledge of the Cathars (Christian dissidents who were strongly dualist). In the doctor’s own investigation, he discovered that four of the songs Mrs. Smith had written could be found in old manuscripts of the 13th century.

The writing apparently revealed things that Mrs. Smith could not have known. These things were not verified at the time that Mrs. Smith wrote them — they were verified later. For example, she wrote that Cathar priests sometimes wore dark blue. Textbooks of the time stated that the priests always wore black, but later it was verified that they sometimes wore dark blue or dark green. Also, names and family relationships that she had written could be found in the dog Latin records of the Inquisition. Furthermore, she had stated that Cathars had been kept as prisoners in a certain church crypt. At first, no one believed that prisoners had been kept there, but later it was discovered that so many prisoners had been rounded up that prisoners in fact had been kept in that crypt.

The doctor’s investigation convinced him that reincarnation is true — a conclusion that Almeder agrees with.

  1. Apparitions of the Death

Almeder also writes about apparitions of the dead — ghosts. One vivid example concerns the Rev. Abraham Cummings, who wrote an account about the late Mrs. Butler in 1826. The ghost of Mrs. Butler allegedly appeared in a village in Maine several times before many people during a period of several months. During her visits, she spoke with people and accurately foretold births and deaths. For example, she predicted that the new Mrs. Butler would give birth to one child and then shortly thereafter die. In addition, on one occasion her husband tried to put his hand on her body and it passed through. Several eyewitnesses swore that they had seen this.

Another vivid example concerns the ghosts of Flight 401. On Dec. 28, 1972, an Eastern Airlines plane (Flight 401) crashed, killing 101 people. Shortly thereafter, the ghosts of the pilot, Robert Loft, and the second officer, Don Repo, began appearing on airplanes that had been made with parts recycled from the crashed airplane.

Often, a dazed captain would appear on a plane. The stewardess would be worried about him, but when she tried to comfort him, he would disappear. On one occasion, the stewardess called back the pilot, who stared at the dazed captain and said, “My God, it’s Bob Loft.” The ghost of Don Repo also appeared frequently, sometimes warning the crew of potential mechanical problems. Once he said, “Watch out for fire on this plane.” Later, on takeoff the plane’s third engine burst into flames and the plane had to land.

If ghosts such as those described here truly exist, then we have empirical evidence for postdeath survival. Almeder believes that ghosts exist.

  1. Possession

In addition to ghosts, Almeder recounts some vivid examples of possession, in which the spirit of a dead person inhabits the body of a living person. One vivid example is that of the “Watseka Wonder.” This case of possession allegedly took place in Watseka, Illinois, in the late 1870s. Mary Roff was 18 years old when she died in 1865. A year later, Lurancy Vennum was born. In 1877, at age 13, Lurancy began to have fits, during which her body was allegedly possessed by several spirits — most notably by the spirit of Mary Roff.

When Lurancy’s body was possessed by Mary Roff, she had no memory of being Lurancy. In fact, she went to live with the Roff family for a while, during which time she recognized many of Mary’s friends and relatives and recounted many events from Mary’s childhood. Later, Lurancy’s personality returned and she remembered nothing about Mary Roff. Almeder explains this by saying that Mary Roff’s disembodied personality had possessed the body of Lurancy Vennum.

Another vivid example concerns Shiva and Sumitra Singh. This occurred in India and is discussed in a 1989 article in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. On July 9, 1985, Sumitra Singh appeared to die; however, she revived in a confused state and stated that she was Shiva and that she had been murdered by her in-laws. As Shiva, Sumitra acted differently, for Shiva was of a higher caste than hers. Shiva had been well educated, while Sumitra had not. In addition, as Shiva, Sumitra was able to recognize many of Shiva’s friends and relatives. Once again, Almeder accepts this as a case of genuine possession.

  1. Out-of-Body Experiences

Almeder also writes about out-of-body experiences, which have been investigated by Dr. Raymond Moody, who is famous for his research into near-death experiences. (The out-of-body experience is a part of near-death experiences.)

Once again, we have a number of vivid examples. One patient had clinically died, but the doctor was able to resuscitate him. The doctor was surprised by the patient’s description of what had happened in the hospital room during the resuscitation attempt and by the description of the equipment that had been used. However, what most surprised the doctor was the patient’s description of the nurse who had helped resuscitate him. In fact, the patient even knew her name. The patient explained that after he had left his body he had walked down the hall to see his wife and had noticed the nurse rushing in to help him. (He had noticed her name written on her nametag.)

In another vivid example, a woman who had been blind for over 50 years was able to describe the equipment that had been used to resuscitate her — equipment that had been invented after she had gone blind — and she was able to tell the doctor that he was wearing dark blue during the resuscitation attempt.

In yet another story, a doctor had rear-ended a car on his way to the hospital and he was worried about it. This time the patient told him not to worry about the accident — apparently being able to read his mind during the out-of-body experience.

The final example concerns a man who had clinically died in a hospital where his sister was lying in a diabetic coma. While having his out-of-body experience, he began talking to his sister, who then began to go away from him. He tried to follow, but she told him, “You can’t go with me because it’s not your time.” After being resuscitated, the man told the doctor that his (the man’s) sister had died, but the doctor denied it. However, after checking, the doctor discovered that the man’s sister had died.

  1. Communications with the Dead Through Mediums

Finally, we have examples of communications with the dead through a medium. The first vivid example concerns Laura Edmonds, whose father was Judge John Worth Edmonds of New York. This example of a medium at work was reported in 1905 in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques. A Greek man attended a séance at which Ms. Edmonds was the medium. A dead Greek man allegedly controlled her body and told the living Greek man that his son had recently died in Greece. This was later confirmed.

The Main Point

The main point of all these examples of ghosts, mediums, etc. is that if these experiences are genuine, they provide support for postdeath survival and for dualism. Of course, Almeder believes that they are genuine.

II. Objections to Life After Death, and Responses

Almeder responds to three objections to life after death, and then he states his conclusion

  1. It is impossible to imagine what a disembodied spirit would be like; in fact, the very idea of a disembodied spirit is conceptually incoherent.

Almeder’s response is that even if we cannot imagine what a disembodied spirit would be like, this is no reason to suppose that a disembodied spirit cannot exist. After all, Almeder points out, we cannot fully imagine an infinite set of numbers, yet we know that such series exist.

In addition, Almeder writes, those people who say that the notion of a disembodied spirit is conceptually incoherent are engaging in a dogmatic answer — they are simply refusing to consider the possibility of a disembodied spirit.

  1. We don’t have any experimental evidence of postdeath survival.

Almeder’s response here is that we don’t need experimental evidence. Experimental evidence is good for answering certain kinds of questions, such as those about causal connections. However, experimental evidence is not good for answering questions about what happened in the past. For example, we know that dinosaurs have existed in the past, but we can hardly reproduce their existence in a laboratory (except in Jurassic Park).

  1. There is so much fraud associated with ghosts and mediums that we need experimental evidence to establish that postdeath survival is possible.

Almeder’s response is that we don’t need that kind of evidence — only the kinds of evidence that we already have: Many and widespread apparently true examples of such things as reincarnation, ghosts, and communications with the dead through mediums.

III. Almeder’s Conclusion

Almeder’s conclusion is that a very strong case has been made for reincarnation and that postdeath survival is a fact.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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good loves and bad loves

what we choose is what we love

we should choose good loves




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do love the right things

avoid loving the wrong things

love good zealously




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Trump Tells the Truth About Hillary

Trump on Hillary (YouTube)

He liked her.



Twitter on Hilary (Twitter)

He liked her.


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John Donne: Go and Catch a Falling Star

Go and catch a falling star,
    Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
    Or who cleft the devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
            And find
            What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.
If thou be’st born to strange sights,
    Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
    Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
            And swear,
            No where
Lives a woman true, and fair.
If thou find’st one, let me know,
    Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
    Though at next door we might meet;
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
            Yet she
            Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.
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NOTES on St. Anselm (circa 1033 to 1109): Proslogion

St. Anselm lived from approximately 1033 to 1109. He was an Italian prelate, the archbishop of Canterbury, and the founder of Scholasticism (which is defined by the Concise Columbia Encyclopedia as the “philosophy and theology of Western Christendom in the Middle Ages”). In addition, he originated the ontological argument for the existence of God.

The ontological argument may perhaps best be described as a group of arguments, all of which claim to derive the existence of God from an analysis of the concept of God. (“Ontology” is concerned with the study of being.) Many philosophers, including René Descartes (1596-1650) and the 20th-century philosopher Norman Malcolm, have written versions of the ontological argument. Whether the ontological argument is valid is still being hotly debated today.

St. Anselm writes down the ontological argument in his Proslogion. He has one version of the argument in Chapter 2, and a second version in Chapter 3. We will examine these arguments separately.

The First Argument

St. Anselm begins this argument by stating what it is that we understand God to be:

And, indeed, we believe that thou art a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.

This definition is understood by all, even atheists, whom St. Anselm calls fools:

But, at any rate, this very fool, when he hears of this being of which I speak — a being than which nothing greater can be conceived — understands what he hears, and what he understands is in his understanding; although he does not understand it to exist.

This understanding of God does exist, since both the believer and the atheist understand that this is what God is. However, we still need to discover whether God exists in reality or whether God exists only in the understanding.

To clarify the two kinds of existence, St. Anselm uses as an example a conception of a painting and a real painting:

For it is one thing for an object to be in the understanding, and another to understand that the object exists. When a painter first conceives of what he will afterwards perform, he has it in his understanding, but he does not yet understand it to be, because he has not yet performed it. But after he has made the painting, he both has it in his understanding, and he understands that it exists, because he has made it.

The atheist would say that a conception of God exists in the understanding; that is, even an atheist understands that God is “a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.” However, an atheist would deny that God exists as an actual being. (Using the Latin phrases, an atheist would say that the conception of God exists in intellectubut that God does not exist in re.)

So far, we have established the existence of one thing: God as “a being than which nothing greater can be conceived” exists in the understanding. This is something to which both the believer and the atheist give assent. St. Anselm writes:

Hence, even the fool is convinced that something exists in the understanding, at least, than which nothing greater can be conceived. For, when he hears of this, he understands it. And whatever is understood, exists in the understanding.

St. Anselm will examine the consequences of this fact: the fact that a particular conception of God exists in the understanding of both the believer and the atheist. St. Anselm comes to his conclusion that God exists both in the understanding and in reality by the use of an indirect argument. He shows that denying what he wishes to prove leads to an absurdity.

St. Anselm’s indirect argument starts with a premise that he has already established: Our conception of God is of a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. He also has showed that this conception of God exists in the understanding.

Next, St. Anselm examines the following statement: “A being than which nothing greater can be conceived exists in the understanding alone and not in reality.” (This statement denies what St. Anselm wishes to prove; St. Anselm wishes to prove that “a being than which nothing greater can be conceived exists in reality.”) On examining this assumption, St. Anselm sees that it leads to an absurdity. If the assumption is true, then this conception that exists in the understanding alone would be greater than the same conception that exists bothin the understanding and in reality.

St. Anselm believes that something that exists in reality is greater than something that exists only in the understanding. Most of us would agree with this. We would much rather have a real $100 bill in our pocket than an imaginary $100 bill. We would also much rather have a real painting by Picasso hanging in our homes than an imaginary painting by Picasso.

In St. Anselm’s words,

And assuredly that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For, suppose it exists in the understanding alone: then it can be conceived to exist in reality; which is greater.

Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence, there is no doubt that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.

The Second Argument

We can look at Chapter 3 of St. Anselm’s Proslogionas explaining further that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Apparently, St. Anselm believed that God has necessary existence (though he did not use those words), which means that God necessarily exists. According to St. Anselm and many other theologians, God has always existed and always will exist. In St. Anselm’s words:

And it [a being than which nothing greater can be conceived] exists so truly, that it cannot be conceived not to exist.

If we are thinking of “a being than which nothing greater can be conceived,” then we are thinking of a being whose nonexistence is impossible; in fact, we are thinking of a being whose nonexistence cannot be thought of. After all, if we think of a being whose nonexistence can be thought of, then we can conceive of a greater being — a being whose nonexistence cannot be thought of.

Gaunilo: “On Behalf of the Fool”

Gaunilo was a monk who was a contemporary of St. Anselm. Gaunilo read St. Anselm’s Proslogionand thought he detected an error in St. Anselm’s argument. To illustrate the error, Gaunilo used another argument that he believed had the same form as St. Anselm’s argument.

Gaunilo said to think of the most perfect island. Because the island is most perfect, it therefore must exist. Of course, Gaunilo believed that this argument is faulty. However, if Gaunilo’s argument is faulty, then St. Anselm’s argument is also faulty because — according to Gaunilo — it has the same form as Gaunilo’s argument.

However, we can ask if Gaunilo’s criticism is correct. St. Anselm replied in effect that God has necessary existence (though, as stated above, St. Anselm did not use those words). Only God — if God exists — has necessary existence. No island, no matter how perfect, has necessary existence.

We can also ask if the most perfect island is truly analogous to God. The most perfect island is the most perfect among things of the same kind. (The most perfect island is the most perfect among islands.) However, we don’t think of God as the greatest among things of the same kind. (The Judeo-Christian God is not the greatest among gods.) Therefore, the two arguments are not truly similar.


In conclusion, let me say that I leave it up to the reader to decide whether the ontological argument is a good argument.

Note: The quotations by St. Anselm that appear in this essay are from his Proslogion, translated by S. N. Deane.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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