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What the Nuns Forgot to Teach about the Spirit World ~ Michael Tymn

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What the Nuns Forgot to Teach about the Spirit World

Posted ~29 August 2022

While attending Catholic school during the 1940s, I became familiar with several of the stories about apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she was referred to by good Catholics, the most notable at that time being those at Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, and Guadalupe in Mexico, (below) A few years later, while in high school, I visited the Guadalupe church and observed the cloak revered by millions of Catholics – one in which an image of Mary is said to have mysteriously materialized from roses carried within the cloak.  In spite of the fact that I parted ways with the Catholic Church more than 50 years ago, I suspect that those stories subconsciously triggered my interest in psychic phenomena some decades later. It was one thing to leave the church, quite another to completely erase those psychic stories with varying degrees of credibility from my memory bank at times when I was pondering on existential matters. 

Until I read Don Porteous’s recently released book, Spiritual Reality and the Afterlife, I had no idea that there were hundreds of reported apparitions of Mary over the centuries, not to mention countless other unexplained religious phenomena not directly related to Mary. I recall reading about and even seeing photos of the apparition that took place in Zeitun, Egypt in 1968 and not too many years ago reading extensively about the Medjugorje apparitions, which began in 1981 and apparently continue to this day.  I even wrote an article about the Medjugorje apparitions for a national magazine and reported on them at an earlier blog, which can be found in the archives for October 3, 2016.  I also recall reading about tears or blood flowing from statues of the Blessed Virgin in various places, but they were mostly tabloid-type stories with no follow-up reports and seemingly little credibility. 

The first section of the book explores the empirical evidence for the actual existence of a spiritual part of our human nature, distinct and separate from the physical body and brain, and what Porteous classifies as “Extraordinary Knowing,” “Extraordinary Knowers,” and “Extraordinary Events.” A key part of the evidence relates to people “knowing things that by all known laws of science they shouldn’t know.” He discusses psychic healing, spiritual healing, remote viewing, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, telepathy, ganzfeld tests, xenoglossy, and even spoon bending and psychic ping pong.

The second section deals with the voluminous evidence for the actual survival of that spiritual part of us after the death and dissolution of the physical body and brain.  It includes near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, deathbed apparitions, mediumship, and instrumental transcommunication.

“Is it purely by coincidence that the deepest form of ‘trance mediumship’ – the source of such profound evidence for the continuity of life after ‘death’ – should have emerged in force at precisely that period when militant materialism was most active in the its denial of all things spiritual?” Porteous asks of the mediumship from 100-160 years ago.  “The emergence of this particular form of mediumship was relatively brief, and appears to have been largely limited to the period of greatest need. Mediumship today, by and large, is just a pale reflection of such giants as Mrs. Leonard and Mrs. Piper.”

In discussing the case of “Patience Worth,” said to be the spirit of a seventeenth century English woman who communicated through the mediumship of Pearl Curran, an American housewife who had never traveled more than a few hundred miles from her St. Louis, Missouri home and had no formal schooling beyond the eighth grade, Porteous summarizes a very interesting language study.  He notes that since the 1300s, other than the Bible, no English author of note has gone beyond 64 percent usage of Anglo-Saxon in his or her writings.  From 1600 to 1878, 28 percent was the average found in English literature over that time period.  Yet, in one of the books, Telka, dictated by Patience Worth through Mrs. Curran, the percentage of Anglo-Saxon words approaches 90 percent.  And it should be kept in mind that much of what came through Curran was spontaneous and in response to requests or questions.

“No matter how one chooses to approach it,” Porteous analyzes it, “it’s difficult to fathom how an absolutely undistinguished American housewife, who had never been outside the American Midwest, had absolutely no literary or historical interests and only an eighth grade education – could generate a linguistic production, a purity of Anglo-Saxon usage, that had not occurred in the English language in over 700 years.”  Porteous wonders how anyone can possibly reconcile this with the known laws of science.

Much of the second half of Porteous’s book deals with what he calls “The Great Convergence,” the sudden appearance in the mid-1800s of two separate streams of communication – one by spirits through mediums, and one by the Virgin Mary in her many apparitions – both at the same time that materialism swept over the world, as predicted by Mary some 300 years earlier.  “The primary thrust of the ‘spiritualistic’ line of communication was the survival message – the demonstration of our continuing existence,” he explains. “The primary thrust of the ‘Marian’ line of communication, was to put our present ‘physical existence,’ as well as our continuing ‘spiritual’ existence, into their larger perspective, with the successful beginnings and further development of our afterlife being very much dependent upon the nature of our approach to our present life.” 

It is the second “thrust” that makes Porteous’s book more comprehensive and more compelling than any other book I have read dealing with the overall subject of God and immortality.  He makes a strong case for the convergence.  He further suggests that the spirit world was “intentionally mobilized for this intensive communication effort at this point in time.” (Emphasis his)  Paradoxically, the biggest skeptics on the Church phenomena have been the Catholic clergy, while secular scientists have provided much of the best evidence validating some of that phenomena.

Porteous notes that a number of medical teams, some of them hostile to any form of organized religion, have failed to discredit the six young Medjugorje visionaries. The studies have involved neurological and psychological testing, including polygraph and hypnosis, and some have taken place during their visions while in a state of ecstasy.  One of the most intriguing observations at Medjugorje to me is that of the visionaries ascending a thorn-bush and stone covered hillside (Mt. Podbrdo) in about two minutes (to observe an apparition), whereas even an athletic adult would take about 10 minutes.  One of the witnesses was Jozo Ostovic, the regional sprint champion.  “I am running as fast as I can, but falling further and further behind, and so are the grown men running with me,” he is quoted. “We are gasping for breath, almost in tears, unable to believe what is happening.” A priest, Father Viktor Kozir, also an athlete, confirmed Ostovic’s report, saying the children seemed to be flying.

Porteous states that the same thing was reported at Garabandal in Spain with a series of apparitions of St. Michael and the Virgin Mary between 1961 and 1965. It was said that four young girls, ages 11 and 12, covered ground at three time their normal rate and that they often ran backward on their knees at an incredible speed.

One of the intriguing stories related by Porteous but not by the nuns at my Catholic school, at least to my recollection, is ”The Wonderful Crucifix of Limpias.” It involves a wooden cross with a carving of Jesus in his final agony, located in a church in Limpias, (below) a village in northern Spain.  In 1919, many people reported seeing the upturned eyes of Jesus and his mouth open and close, and the gaze moving from side to side or at times even staring directly at the viewer. Some reported seeing tears and blood dripping and even perspiration, which was felt as well as seen.  The witnesses numbered in the hundreds, including some medical and scientific men.  Dr. Armando Penamaria Alvarez described his experience: “His glassy, pain-filled eyes…His lead-coloured lips..the muscles of the neck and breast were contracted and made breathing forced and laboured…then a frightful spasm, as with one who is suffocating and struggling for air, at which the mouth and nose were opened wide.”  An outpouring of blood followed, Alvarez continued, after which his head sunk limply to his breast.


“Attitudes towards these events were divided,” Porteous observes, “with firmly entrenched camps of both believers and disbelievers. The sceptics quite naturally attributed the entire affair to anything from fraudulently implanted mechanical devices to optical effects caused by an electric light bulb, to the usual litany of delusions, hallucinations or mass hysteria.”  He adds that not everyone saw what others saw and that those who came to the church with the specific intent of the seeing the phenomenon, saw nothing at all. Porteous further notes that in a book about the events, the Rev. Baron Paul von Kleist provided the personal testimonies of several dozen witnesses, including a number of pure sceptics, some of whom attended with the intention of debunking the events. 
In the final chapters (Part 4) of his book, Porteous categorizes and summarizes the “teachings” of 145 different spirits, including Mary, quoting their actual words as coming through mediums or as passed on by the visionaries from Mary, noting their many similarities and occasional differences.  Summarizing the main message, Survival, Porteous states: “In combatting the negative forces rampant in our world at this time, the spirits’ primary weapon is a very special piece of information: Our bodies may die – but life goes on.

But I liked Porteous’s comment on the importance of humor as much as those of the spirits:  “The impression prevalent in some quarters (mainly churchly) of a heavenly afterworld marked by an unending state of pious solemnity, is enthusiastically laid to rest…”

Where have you gone, Sister Anastasia Marie? I hope you know all this by now.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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