The Science of Spirit Possession

Original Article

By Tara MacIsaac

In Beyond Science, Epoch Times explores research and accounts related to phenomena and theories that challeange our current knowledge. We delve into ideas that stimulate the imagination and open up new possibilities. Share your thoughts with us on these sometimes controversial topics in the comments section below.

Modern science questions much of the knowledge gained through the collective memory of humanity over the course of millennia.

“Every culture and religious belief system throughout human history has its traditional beliefs of spirit possession in some form or another with corresponding rituals for the release or exorcism of spirit entities,” wrote Dr. Terence Palmer, a psychologist and the first person in the U.K. to earn a Ph.D. in spirit release therapy.

Some psychologists are returning to the methods developed by our ancestors to help patients with symptoms of possession.

Dr. William Baldwin (1939–2004) founded the practice of spirit release therapy and he also used past-life regression treatments. Baldwin was cautious about saying whether he believed in reincarnation or not, but he did say his treatments helped patients, and that’s what matters.

Spirit release practitioner Dr. Alan Sanderson wrote in a paper titled “Spirit Release Therapy: What Is It and What Can It Achieve?”: “I want to stress that the concept of spirit attachment and the practice of spirit release are not based on faith, as are religious and mystical beliefs. They are based on the observation of clinical cases and their response to standard therapeutic techniques. This is a scientific approach, albeit one that takes account of subjective experience and is not confined by contemporary scientific theory.”

Dr. Palmer commented in the introduction to a lecture titled “The Science of Spirit Possession”: “SRT [spirit release therapy] sits uncomfortably between the disbelief of a materialist secular society and the subjective experience of spirit possession: whether that experience is a symptom of psychosis, symbolic representation, socio-cultural expectation or a veridical manifestation.”

Parapsychology has been called a “pseudoscience,” as have other scientific approaches to phenomena that cannot be entirely explained by conventional science. However one views the method, it appears a revival of ancient wisdom has been effective in many cases.

Here’s a look at some of the thinkers, including those already mentioned, who have approached possession scientifically.

 

Frederick W.H. Myers

Frederick W.H. Myers (1843–1901) wrote in his book “Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death,” which was published posthumously in 1906: “The controlling spirit proves his identity mainly by reproducing, in speech or writing, facts which belong to his memory and not to the automatist’s memory.”

He noted that the brain is little-understood; scientists don’t have a solid understanding of many of its ordinary functions let alone extraordinary functions (and this still holds true today). He theorized about a sort of radiation or energy that could be behind the telepathic influence of one person on another.  He tried to consider how the memory centers might be related to the gaps in memory experienced by people said to be possessed.

Myers has not been shown to have any formal education in the field of psychology and much of his work relied on two mediums he worked with. It was his belief in a science that takes fuller account of human consciousness that has continued to inspire scientists. Myers also noted that the origin of the idea is not as important as its effectiveness or veracity.

“Instead of asking in what age a doctrine originated—with the implied assumption that the more recent it is, the better—we can now ask how far it is in accord or in discord with a great mass of actual recent evidence which comes into contact, in one way or another, with nearly every belief as to an unseen world which has been held at least by Western men.

“Submitted to this test, the theory of possession gives a remarkable result. It cannot be said to be inconsistent with any of our proved facts. We know absolutely nothing which negatives its possibility.

“Nay, more than this. The theory of possession actually supplies us with a powerful method of co-ordinating and explaining many earlier groups of phenomena, if only we will consent to explain them in a way which at first sight seemed extreme in its assumptions.”

 

Dr. Terence Palmer

Dr. Palmer’s Ph.D. thesis revived Myers’s work. He said that Myers and others have tried to bring the mental, emotional, and spiritual elements of human experience into natural science.

“To permit the accommodation of all human experience into a broader scientific framework is a scary prospect for several reasons. But fear is the cause of all human suffering, and only when medical science puts aside its own fears of being proven wrong can it treat sickness effectively by showing how fear is to be remedied,” Dr. Palmer wrote.

In a recorded lecture on his thesis, he looked at ways in which we come to know things. Some of the ways include learning from others, using logic and deduction, and through personal experience. He noted that in these ways, a good deal of evidence exists for the possibility of real spirit possession.

Funding, he said, has been one of the obstacles to conducting more rigorous scientific research of spirit possession. He said further studies must be done with remote telepathic intervention. This would bypass any placebo effect or any psychological impact a patient’s belief system may have.

 

Dr. Alan Sanderson

Dr. Sanderson asked in his paper “So where is the research to back these heretical claims [about spirit possession]?”

He gave three reasons for minimal research in this field of study. First, spirit release is a new study, which has only been systematically taught and practiced for about a decade. Second, much mistrust and many misconceptions still present obstacles. Third, research funds are hard to come by.

He is hopeful the field will progress and funds with come forth. In the meantime, he said, “individual cases have much to say.” Dr. Sanderson uses the method developed by Dr. Baldwin to treat spirit possession. Following is an outline of Dr. Baldwin’s work and an example of how Dr. Sanderson used it to help a woman allegedly possessed by the ghost of her father.

 

Dr. William Baldwin

Dr. Baldwin developed a method of helping people exorcise their demons so to speak. It is thought that traumatic experiences can especially cause a person’s consciousness to withdraw and give the body over to other forms of consciousness.

In spirit release therapy, the patient is hypnotized so it is easier to access the other consciousnesses in the person’s mind. The therapist asks the possessing entity to look inside. Dr. Baldwin has said that about half of his hypnotized patients could see silver threads, like those described in Ecclesiastes in the Bible as connecting the human spirit to the body, according to author Kerry Pobanz.

The therapist is said to help the spirits resolve issues so they will no longer have a negative impact on the patient and the therapist may even ask for divine intervention.

 

Dr. Sanderson’s Case Study of a Woman With Multiple Personalities

Pru, 46, had long-term psychological problems found to stem from sexual abuse by her father when she was a child. Under hypnosis in a session with Dr. Sanderson, she identified herself as her father, Jason. Jason would become angry and threaten Dr. Sanderson.

“In deep trance, Jason agreed to look within himself, where he saw blackness,” Dr. Sanderson wrote. “I called for angelic help. With the use of Baldwin’s protocol for dealing with demonic spirits, the blackness left. Thereafter, Jason was amenable. He agreed to leave. Other destructive entities responded similarly.”

Not all spirits found inside a person are malevolent, say spirit release practitioners.

Pru wrote a paragraph to describe her experience: “‘The spiritual approach left me freer from the remaining daily distress than anything tried before. Whilst under hypnosis I found myself talking about some experiences that I had definitely not had and places I certainly had not been to. So, was this spirits, split off parts of my personality, ancestral memory or even false memory/imagination? I very much doubt the latter. There was reluctance, yet at the same time relief, to be spoken to, accepted and contacted. The release from the darkness, into the light and to the beyond had to be experienced to be believed. It was amazing and I still marvel at the sight of these ‘entities’ disappearing and freeing me.”

*Image of woman being hypnotized via Shutterstock

29 States Banned Individual State Laws About Seeds

Original Article

By Kristina Johnson

This story was originally published by Food and Environment Reporting Network.

With little notice, more than two dozen state legislatures have passed “seed-preemption laws” designed to block counties and cities from adopting their own rules on the use of seeds, including bans on GMOs. Opponents say that there’s nothing more fundamental than a seed, and that now, in many parts of the country, decisions about what can be grown have been taken out of local control and put solely in the hands of the state.

“This bill should be viewed for what it is — a gag order on public debate,” says Kristina Hubbard, director of advocacy and communications at the Organic Seed Alliance, a national advocacy group, and a resident of Montana, which along with Texas passed a seed-preemption bill this year. “This thinly disguised attack on local democracy can be easily traced to out-of-state, corporate interests that want to quash local autonomy.”

Seed-preemption laws are part of a spate of legislative initiatives by industrial agriculture, including ag-gag laws passed in several states that legally prohibit outsiders from photographing farms, and “right-to-farm” laws that make it easier to snuff out complaints about animal welfare. The seed laws, critics say, are a related thrust meant to protect the interests of agro-chemical companies.

Nearly every seed-preemption law in the country borrows language from a 2013 model bill drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The council is “a pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists,” essentially “voting as equals” with state legislators on bills, according to The Center for Media and Democracy. ALEC’s corporate members include the Koch brothers as well as some of the largest seed-chemical companies — Monsanto, Bayer, and DuPont — which want to make sure GMO bans, like those enacted in Jackson County, Oregon, and Boulder County, Colorado, don’t become a trend.

Seed-preemption laws have been adopted in 29 states, including Oregon — one of the world’s top five seed-producing regions — California, Iowa, and Colorado. In Oregon, the bill was greenlighted in 2014 after Monsanto and Syngenta spent nearly $500,000 fighting a GMO ban in Jackson County. Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, and Syngenta also spent more than $6.9 million opposing anti-GMO rules in three Hawaiian counties, and thousands more in campaign donations. (These companies are also involved in mergers that, if approved, would create three seed-agrochemical giants.)

Montana and Texas were the latest states to join the seed-preemption club. Farming is the largest industry in Montana, and Texas is the third-largest agricultural state in terms of production, behind California and Iowa.

Language in the Texas version of the bill preempts not only local laws that affect seeds but also local laws that deal with “cultivating plants grown from seed.” In theory, that could extend to almost anything: what kinds of manure or fertilizer can be used, or whether a county can limit irrigation during a drought, says Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. Along with other activists, her organization was able to force an amendment to the Texas bill guaranteeing the right to impose local water restrictions. Still, the law’s wording remains uncomfortably open to interpretation, she says.

In both Montana and Texas, the laws passed with support from the state chapter of the Farm Bureau Federation — the nation’s largest farm-lobbying group — and other major ag groups, including the Montana Stockgrowers Association and the Texas Seed Trade Alliance. In Texas, DuPont and Dow Chemical also joined the fight, publicly registering their support for the bill.

Echoing President Trump’s anti-regulatory rhetoric, preemption proponents argue that, fundamentally, seed-preemption laws are about cutting the red tape from around farmers’ throats. Supporters also contend that counties and cities don’t have the expertise or the resources to make sound scientific decisions about the safety or quality of seeds.

“We don’t believe the locals have the science that the state of Texas has,” said Jim Reaves, legislative director of the Texas Farm Bureau. “So we think it’s better held in the state’s hands. It will basically tell cities that if you have a problem with a certain seed, the state can ban it, but you can’t.”

Other preemption proponents claim that local seed rules would simply get too complicated, forcing growers to navigate conflicting laws in different counties. “Many of us farm fields in more than one county,” said Don Steinbeisser Jr., a Sidney, Montana, farmer who testified in support of his state’s bill at a legislative hearing this spring. “Having different rules in each county would make management a nightmare and add costs to the crops that we simply do not need and cannot afford.”

But critics of preemption laws, including farmers (organic and conventional) and some independent seed companies, are afraid of losing their legislative rights. They claim something far more serious than a single farmer’s crop is at stake.

“There is no looming threat that warrants forfeiting the independence of local agricultural communities in the form of sweeping language that eliminates all local authority governing one of our most valuable national resources,” says Hubbard of the Organic Seed Alliance.

Organic farmers can lose their crop if it becomes contaminated with genetically modified material. Even conventional farmers who rely on exports to Asia, where GMOs are banned by some countries, face risks from contamination. There are currently no plans to push for a GMO ban anywhere in Texas or Montana, and neither state requires companies to disclose the use of GMOs. (In Montana, at least, Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, added an amendment to the preemption bill when he signed it, preserving the right of local governments to require that farmers notify their neighbors if they’re planting GMO seeds.) Yet critics of the preemption laws fear that they tie the hands of local governments, which will make it harder for communities to respond to problems in the future.

Still, the fight isn’t just about GMOs, says Judith McGeary, noting that seeds coated with neonicotinoids — a class of pesticides linked to colony collapse disorder in bees — are also at issue. Under the Texas bill, a local government can’t ban neonic seeds in order to protect pollinator insects, and in the current political climate, it’s hard to imagine that such a ban would happen on the state level.

“We have an extremely large state with an incredible diversity of agricultural practices and ecological conditions, and you’ve now hobbled any ability to address a problem that’s found in one local area,” says McGeary. “Until it’s a big enough issue for a state of 23 million to pay attention to through the state legislature, nothing is going to happen,” she says.

Scientists Incubate Lamb In Artificial Womb For the Second Time.

Original Article

A lamb in an artificial womb from a team at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. (Image: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)

It may look like a glorified Ziplock bag, but the artificial womb could one day save the lives of the thousands of babies born every year prematurely.

For the second time, researchers announced this week that they have successfully incubated lambs born before reaching full term in an artificial ‘womb.’ In findings published this week in The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecologyresearchers from the University of Western Australia, Australia’s Women and Infants Research Foundation, and Tohoku University Hospital in Japan reported that several lambs continued to grow during a week-long incubation period in an “ex-vivo uterine environment” dubbed “EVE.” They appeared healthy when later delivered.

The artificial womb system, “EVE,” used to incubate lambs. IMAGE: Women and Infants Research Foundation

It’s not the first time that researchers have successfully used such a system to incubate preterm lambs. In April, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia used a similar system to incubate premature lambs for a record-breaking four weeks. Lambs have a shorter gestation period so the 105- to 115-day-old premature lamb fetuses in that study were the equivalent of about 23 weeks in a human. The hope is that such systems could help babies born as early as 22 weeks. Each year in the United States, approximately 30,000 births are critically preterm, meaning babies are born before 26 weeks of a full 37-week gestation period.

The system in the new study relies on a fluid-filled plastic bag to keep the lambs alive. A bath of artificial amniotic fluid fills the bag to mimic conditions inside the womb. An external oxygenator fills in for the mother’s placenta, allowing gas exchange of CO2 and oxygen in the fetal blood. Like the Children’s Hospital study, the Australian and Japanese researchers relied on the fetal heart to power the womb, ensuring that developing hearts and lungs don’t get overloaded and giving those organs a chance to develop normally.

Before the April study, the maximum duration a lamb fetus had survived in an artificial system was 60 hours, and those animals experienced brain damage.

The success—using a fetal-powered system for the second time—is an important step towards having something that could actually be tested in human babies. Such a system would be a vast improvement over the current treatment, which is to place premature infants in an incubator and rely on devices like ventilators to assist their still-developing organs.

Such new technologies, though, will also inevitably raise new ethical questions. Recently, one researcher pointed out that the availability of artificial womb technology could threaten a woman’s right to an abortion, since in the US the right hinges in part on whether a fetus is viable. The technology could also result in premature babies that survive, but have lifelong impairments or conditions, raising questions of when it would be appropriate to use such technology.

There is still much work to be done before artificial wombs are ready for humans—if they ever are at all. Researchers have said it will be at least five years before trials are even a possibility, if not more. But it is a future we are inching closer to every day.

DNA modified in Oregon

original article

By Lynne Terry lterry@oregonian.com
The Oregonian/OregonLive
An Oregon scientist known for breaking barriers has done it again, successfully modifying DNA in human embryos, according to a report in Technology Review.

Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health & Science University targeted a gene associated with a human disease, surpassing work done in China, the report said.

An OHSU spokesman declined to comment, saying the report is still under embargo.

Mitalipov’s team worked with human embryos produced by sperm from men with a genetic mutation, the report said, noting they were of “clinical quality.” They then modified the mutation using a gene-editing technique, CRISPR.

Chinese researchers have also modified human embryos with CRISPR. But the report said Mitalipov worked on more embryos and had more success. His team avoided altering genes that were not targeted — called off-target effects — or only modifying some of the targeted DNA, which is called mosaicism.

“Mitalipov and his colleagues are said to have convincingly shown that it is possible to avoid both mosaicism and ‘off-target’ effects, as the CRISPR errors are known,” the report said.

The work offers the possibility that one day science will be able to modify genes in human embryos to prevent disease. Critics worry, however, that gene-editing in embryos opens the floodgates to the creation of “designer babies” in which parents specify traits they want their children to have.

The technique has stirred waves of controversy. The National Institutes of Health has banned experiments that involve genome-editing of human embryos, and Congress has barred the U.S. Food & Drug Administration from considering allowing human trials involving altered embryos.

Mitalipov, who heads OHSU’s Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy, is no stranger to controversy. He created the first cloned monkeys in 2007 and in 2013 created the first human embryonic stem cells through cloning.

The first CRISPR modifications of DNA in a human embryo date to 2015. But those experiments involved embryos with serious mutations. In the current experiment, the embryos were not allowed to develop for more than a few days, the report said.

— Lynne Terry

lterry@oregonian.com

@LynnePDX