Opinion Setters: What to Believe

Introduction for Opinion Setters

You can tell you are in a  maturing community when you notice that a few truths have begun to dominate how people in your community think. These truths may be little more than the belief of a few of the more dynamic opinion setters, but the need for objective support is seldom considered. It is the mindful way of the seeker to question these culturally dominant beliefs.

The Seeker’s Way

If you consider yourself a paranormalist, then you are probably a seeker in search of spiritual maturity. One of the things that distinguish you from mainstream society is the realization that you have a part to play as a citizen of a greater reality. For all of us, coming to understand what that means and how to integrate that understanding into our life underlines much of what we do.

We are not born with this understanding, only a formless imperative to gain understanding; a spiritual instinct, if you will. It is a huge step in our spiritual evolution when we evolve from formless instinct to the understanding that this urge is so much more than just idle curiosity; when we come to understand that it is, in fact, our purpose.

While realizing the need to gain understanding about our connectedness with the greater reality is important, there remains the task of finding the path of learning which is right for us. Each of us is different and the way of progression we must follow is likely different as well.

A way of learning is not so much a matter of this lesson or that. It is a lifelong process shaped by our individual point of view, but it must permit, even require frequent examination of beliefs and a pragmatic attitude about truth. Our teachers are most often accidental role models; family members or peers we admire or who provide examples of how not to be. Some we seek out, and as is the nature of humanity, some may be described as false teachers.

The Pledge

Opinion Setters

Some of our teachers are the opinion setters of our community such as politicians and scholars. Important teachers are the holy men and women who have gone before us and now seek to show the way for those of us who would come after. We must depend on guidance from the opinion setters, but the task is to understand their message and to select the opinion setters who can show the way without demanding belief in their dogma; however, before you can do that, you need to understand what you want to learn.

The idea of an opinion setter will likely go against the grain for most paranormalists. We are an independent lot and know that we have been pretty much lied to by mainstream society. In fact, many of the opinion setters of mainstream society are the skeptics of our frontier community. They would have us believe that our urge to gain understanding is illusion and that reality stops at the edge of the physical. They would have us believe we will cease to exist when our body dies.

So, we look to the leaders within our community for guidance. But first, it is probably a good idea for you to know why you should listen to me. After all, it seems here that I am posing as an opinion setter talking about opinion setters, which is possibly a conflict of interest.

In mainstream terms, you might think of me as a futurist. In fact, much of my last ten or so years in the corporate world was as a long-rang planner. I polished my crystal ball every morning. J

Today, I consider myself a metaphysician. The fruit of a metaphysician’s study is a cosmology. A good metaphysical cosmology will provide a model to help a person understand their spiritual nature and how they might relate to the greater reality. Naturally, such a cosmology represents the author’s understanding, but it should be based on available science. There are a number of good cosmologies, so to help keep track, and for reasons I will explain later, I refer to my work as the Implicit Cosmology. So, think of me as an aggregator of ideas. And as such, I do not see myself as an opinion setter, only a reporter. My objective is to give you enough information for you to develop your own opinion.

Explaining Experiences

The first foundation of fact is that people have experiences which are not satisfactorily explained by mainstream science. It is these experiences that distinguished the paranormalist community.

An important perspective about experiences is that, if they are able to be explained as something ordinary that has been mistaken as paranormal, the experience is just that. It is not paranormal. For instance, if a suspected Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) turns out to someone talking down the hall, then that example is not EVP. EVP are by definition anomalous voices; voices in recording media not explained by known science.

If a mundane explanation cannot be shown, there must be a hypothesis which at least provides a plausible model for the experience based on current science and known fact, all informed by proposed alternative explanations. What was the experience? Did others share it? Is it common or rare? Can it be replicated under controlled conditions? If known science does not explain it, what is the least extraordinary model that will?

Different Views of Reality

While we share a common interest in things paranormal, we tend to fall into sub-communities of interest characterized by rather different point of view. These can be generalized as those of us who believe that mind only survives as memory and those of us who believe it continues as living personality. These are very profound differences, but it is seldom obvious who is in which camp.

The easiest way to keep track of these two points of view is the Super-psi Hypothesis (survived memory, memories of the past) and the Survival Hypothesis (survived, living personality). For a general description of these:

Super-psi Hypothesis

  • All that exists is the physical universe.
  • The universe may have evolved from a singularity into what it is today.
  • An as yet unidentified form of space called psi (psi field) permeates all of physical reality.
  • Life has evolved on earth from a primordial soup into what it is today.
  • Mind exists in the psi field and continues beyond death of the brain as differentiated, residual energy.
  • Brain is a transmitter/receiver for mind.
  • Thought, memory and emotions are retained in the psi field.
  • People have five senses that are informed by impressions from the psi field.

The Super-psi Hypothesis requires the existence of subtle energy which is influenced by intention. Once formed, it is argued that information exists forever in the subtle energy field as memory which is accessible by sensing the psi field (psi functioning, psychic). As such there is no such thing as mediumship, only psi functioning. Super-psi does not require the existence of a greater reality, survived living intelligence or a nonphysical source (creator, Source, God). That means mainstream academia need only accept the existence of a psi field and an extraordinary human ability to psychically access information retained in that field.

Parapsychological research tends to support Super-psi without many of the logical exercises needed to make it support survival. As such, it is widely accepted amongst parapsychologists. However, since the existence of psi is not expressly defined by mainstream science, it is rejected by mainstream academia.

Survival Hypothesis

  • There is a greater reality of which the physical universe is an aspect.
  • The psi field is an aspect of a greater reality.
  • An as yet unidentified form of space called psi (psi field) permeates all of reality.
  • Mind, with its thoughts, memories and emotions, has evolved in the greater reality and continues to exist beyond death of the brain.
  • For a lifetime, mind and brain are entangled to produce a physical-etheric link.
  • During a lifetime, mind is expressed as consciousness and an etheric personality (unconscious).
  • People have five senses that are informed by impressions from the psi field by way of personality to conscious self.

At first glance, the Survival Hypothesis agrees with super-psi in most details, but there are very substantial differences. Survival requires that personality, as a person’s intelligent core, is immortal: existed before birth of the person’s physical body and continues to exist after death of the body. As such, the physical body is an avatar with which etheric personality is entangled and which host conscious self via the brain as transmitter-receiver of consciousness.

With the requirement of immortal personality, the Survival Hypothesis also requires a greater reality which is personality’s natural environment. Since we are attempting to provide a theory to model paranormal experiences, survival must also stipulate that discarnate personalities are able to communicate across the etheric-physical veil (transcommunication).

If super-psi is not accepted by mainstream academia because of a lack of theoretical agreement with mainstream science, survival is seen as religious nonsense. Many in parapsychology also see it as pure superstition. It is not that parapsychologists are ignoring evidence. It is just that almost all of the survival phenomena can be pretty well explained with super-psi.

Litmus Test

Applying a go-no-go test to anything is intellectually risky, but using a litmus test to decide whether or not to agree with a particular point of view is useful. In this case, does the Super-psi Hypothesis or the Survival Hypothesis make the most sense? Do either allow for reported experiences? If you consider yourself a medium, then I would expect you to turn toward survival. If you think you are psychic, then I would expect you to favor Super-psi.

Psi Access to Information

There is no known way to shield from the psi field or the influence of intention. Also, distance does not seem to be a barrier for psi functioning. It is well documented that people are able to sense information from other people no matter where they are. As such, anything that a medium might sense, presumably from a discarnate loved one, might also be sensed from the mind of the sitter, or even of a friend in another part of the world.

The psi field is clearly nonlocal, meaning that there is no apparent distance between points in reality and psi influences seem to be equally present everywhere. The evidence for a nontemporal nature of psi field is not as certain. All of the presentiment studies I have seen seem to be explainable with First Sight Theory[1] and Presentiment (The sense that something is about to happen).

Precognition—the sensing of something before it happens—is usually thought of as a longer-term sensing than presentiment. In a literal sense, it indicates that all time is now; however, there is much support for the idea of potential futures. Call these a thoughtform or etheric field[2] that represents the process of becoming for a thing, idea or event. There is much more support for the idea that a person might sense potential futures, especially ones that are particularly meaningful to the person or that is eminent while carrying a lot of meaning to the person. In that case, time is real, processes take time and the future is … well, it is in the future and only seen as potential futures.

The hardest part of mediumship research is concocting a test that eliminates the possibility of psychic access of information. Because experiments seem to always have a super-psi explanation for results, mediumship comes out as providing the least convincing evidence of survival when compared with the evidence of reincarnation and near-death experiences. Whatever you tell me as a medium, if I can show that someone in the physical knew that information … now or in the past, I can simply argue that the Super-psi Hypothesis explains the message without resorting to survival.

So the litmus test for mediumship is whether or not the information could have been accessed from someone’s mind or as a memory from the psi field. If the answer is yes, then the message can reasonably be thought of as psychic. The idea is that the explanation requiring the least deviation from known science should be favored. That is the position taken by people who accept super-psi.

Life Field Complex
This is part of the Implicit Cosmology, which is a hypothesis developed to help explain the phenomena of transcommunication, especially Instrumental TransCommunication (ITC). The functional areas are explained in the Creative Process essay. [11]

Trans-survival Hypothesis

Take a look at the Life Field Complex diagram, above. It is part of an effort to model the Survival Hypothesis based on current parapsychological research and what is known about Instrumental TransCommunication (ITC). (You may be more familiar with the audio form of ITC which is better known as EVP.) I generalize the model as the Implicit Cosmology.[3]

The Survival Hypothesis is referred to but seldom explained as more than “we survive death.” The version I work with is rather more comprehensive because of transcommunication, so I refer to it as “Trans-survival” with the “trans-“ prefix intended to indicate the added influence of transcommunication concepts. The implications of survival are far-reaching and complex, so they are modeled as the Implicit Cosmology.

The only physical part of the diagram is the human body. The only conscious part is the personality’s perception that it is the human body. I refer to this perspective as the human-centric one as “I think I am this.” Everything else is unconscious function.

This model is loosely based on the concept of morphic fields described by Rupert Sheldrake in his Hypothesis of Formative Causation.[4] In that, he describes morphogenetic (morphic) fields for organisms which are guided by “Nature’s habit” for how that organism has always been formed. In the diagram above, the morphic field is the life field, shown here as it is entangled in a physical lifetime. “Nature’s habit” is maintained in the Worldview functional area. The human body has a morphic field but shares the Attention Complex with its entangled etheric personality.

A person is an etheric personality (I am this) entangled with a human body in an avatar relationship (I think I am this). As such, a person shares its worldview with the body and is strongly influenced by the human’s instincts. It is for the person to moderate these physical instincts with spiritual ones.

Morphic fields have a zone of influence engulfing the organism. (It is likely that the influence of this field extends beyond the physical organism and may represent the “personal bubble” many of us claim as personal space around us.) Think of the field as an organizing influence on life processes. A person has a “top” field which organizes many subfields responsible for morphogenesis of chemical production, cells and organs. These life fields also have memory, a means of sensing and expression, a purpose and a means of modifying behavior.

Of course, I am explaining Sheldrake’s model in terms that helps to explain my model. The point is that we think of life from the perspective of the organism’s physical presence, while in fact, there is a rather complex and extensive subtle field associated with every instance of life. We are no exception. If you think in terms of fractals, life would be the universal fractal with Source as the top fractal. Source’s morphic field would be the reality field.

The immortal part of us, our personality, represents the mind of our morphic (life) field. In the Implicit Cosmology, both physically sensed and psi sensed information is processed in our life field. In this model, our personality, as our immortal intelligent core, is actually part of a collective of personalities. As such, our psi interaction with another person is not some unseen ray between our head and the other person’s head. It is modeled as a link of attention between our etheric personality and that of the other person’s personality in the collective.

In this model, when it comes to the exchange of information, there is little difference between a discarnate personality and one still entangled with its avatar human. As such, there is no difference between a psychic and a medium. Both must communicate via their etheric personality.

To emphasize this point, the functions of psi sensing and mediumship are modeled in the Implicit Cosmology as just another form of perception. That is, environmental information (psi signature and output of physical senses to mind) is unconsciously sensed by a person, but a decision is made in the Attention Limiter to ignore or consider the information. If the information is considered, then it is unconsciously related to worldview for recognition. If it is not recognized in some way, it is ignored anyway. Recognition may result in modification of the information to agree with worldview. It is that modified form which enters into conscious awareness.[5]

In this model, the litmus test for mediumship is not whether or not it could have been accessed from someone’s mind or from residual memory in the psi field. It must be the content of the information and its sensibility. Does the information source in the etheric interact with the medium in unexpected ways?

The problem of accessing memory is that someone knows what a person might have said, based on remembered mannerisms and attitudes. The only way I know of to address this is to ask whether or not the information seems surprising. Our society is constantly evolving and how we interact with our environment today is at least a little different from how we interacted yesterday. Memory does not evolve unless it is impressed by a living process. People have a good sense of humanness and what seems contemporary, but it probably requires a peer panel to decide. Although it will not likely be a scientific test, perhaps that sense or “newness” is all we have for testing authenticity of mediumistic communication.

In this model, information from other personalities is translated in the Attention Complex based on the medium’s worldview. That is, it comes from the communicating entity as a gestalt thoughtform and is “embodied” in best-fit words, images and feeling from the medium’s worldview. As such, the message may be from an ancient personality even though it is expressed to the sitter in modern terms. As far as I can tell, only deep-trance mediumship is able to bypass the medium’s perceptual process. (Lucidity)

A White Crow

To be valid, survival models need objective evidence that cannot be explained with super-psi. The one example I can think of was produced by ATransC member, Martha Copeland. Martha’s daughter Cathy made her transition while still in her teens. The story of how it began is told in Martha’s book, “I’m still Here,[6] but to keep this short, she recorded many EVP from Cathy in which she is saying things she would have said during her lifetime.

Martha was of the habit of leaving her voice-activated audio recorder on while she did routine chores, just in case someone on the other side wanted to say hello. One day, her chores were interrupted by a friend’s invitation to go shopping. She left in a hurry, forgetting to put Cathy’s dog, Doja, outside. While she was away, the dog made a huge mess of the house. In an EVP, you can hear the dog  making a mess and Cathy’s voice clearly scolding the dog “Doja … no!”[7]

The value of this EVP is that it records an event that no one was aware of at the time of the recording and it is clearly Cathy’s voice saying what she could be expected to say. So I will argue that, if there is one instance that supports survival over super-psi, then it is reasonable to seriously consider the hypothesis as an alternative. As such, I will argue that mediumship is a plausible explanation for some anomalous information access.

Survival Physics

Another example of how a litmus test can be applied is seen in the work of Ron Pearson. He is widely acclaimed as a champion of survival. Taking a close look at his point of view shows that he proposes survival of memory and not of living personality. He has stated: “Although the brain must die its exact copy lives on to be connected with another parallel universe.”[8] As I see it, Pearson set out to reimagine current science to show how, with a few corrections, it supports survival of mind. His focus is on how information never ceases to exist and remains psychically accessible. All of the right words are there for Spiritualist except for how he describes the actual nature of survived information. In actuality, his theory is just a version of Super-psi.

The litmus test here can be described as “the arrow of creation.” By that, I mean that in Super-psi, the arrow of creation flies from that hypothetical primordial soup of our body’s origin. In the Survival Hypothesis, the arrow flies from a Source of reality, of which the physical is just an aspect. So does the theory argue that our personality evolved from the physical body or does it allow for the personality to exist prior to this lifetime?

In the phenomenon of mediumship, our communicators very often tell us that we are part of a collective; that we have begun from that collective and that we remain connected with it via consciousness. We strengthen that connectedness with our attention on it via our mediumship.[9]

Anomalistic Psychology

Anomalistic psychology is another field of study ostensibly supporting what we know to be true. As a general rule, psychologists are paranormalist’s most insidious skeptics. A close look at the anomalistic psychology literature will show that studies are mostly concerned with perception of things paranormal with the intention to show that things paranormal are not real … only illusion.

In the article, “What is Anomalistic Psychology”[10] paranormal is defined as “Alleged phenomena that cannot be accounted for in terms of conventional scientific theories.” The author explains that “Anomalistic psychology may be defined as the study of extraordinary phenomena of behavior and experience, including (but not restricted to) those which are often labeled ‘paranormal.’ It is directed towards understanding bizarre experiences that many people have without assuming a priori that there is anything paranormal involved. It entails attempting to explain paranormal and related beliefs and ostensibly paranormal experiences in terms of known psychological and physical factors.”

The emphasis is on “It entails attempting to explain paranormal and related beliefs and ostensibly paranormal experiences in terms of known psychological and physical factors.” “…without assuming a priori that there is anything paranormal involved” can be understood as “without becoming informed about the phenomena thought to be involved.

In a very real sense, anomalistic psychologists set out to prove that whatever the paranormal is claimed to be, it is actually all in the beholder’s mind. This is well-understood by parapsychologists, which forces us to question why that kind of literature is published in a respected paranormal-oriented journal without at least some kind of warning to the reader.

The litmus test for any research report concerning things paranormal is whether or not the authors include consideration of the Super-psi and Survival Hypotheses in a way that leaves the possibility open that they may be real. The second part of this test is whether super-psi or survival is part of the working hypothesis, and if so, which one.

If you consider yourself a psychic, then the second part of this does not matter. All you are interested in is acknowledgement that psi functioning may be real and not imagination. If you consider yourself a medium, then I assume you think you are talking to discarnate loved ones who are still very much alive, just in “different atmospheres and awarenesses.”


Something every paranormalist needs to decide is whether or not the information they access with their inner senses is psychically accessed from memory or mediumistically accessed from a living personality. Is it communication (mediumship) or data mining (psychic)? Technically, there is a huge difference in how psychic and medium are defined. Three models have been discussed in this essay:

  1. The Super-psi Hypothesis claims that the anomalously accessed information is psychically accessed from memory of living people or residual memory in the psi field. It is modeled on psi research, for which First Sight Theory[1] is an aggregator model. (Psychic)
  2. The Survival Hypothesis proposes that information is mediumistically accessed via communication with discarnate personalities. It is based on Super-psi with the stipulation that information is from living personality. (Mediumship)
  3. The Trans-survival Hypothesis proposes the idea that all information is accessed via the person’s etheric personality as a personality-to-personality exchange. (Using old terms, the psychic or mediumship question is decided by message content)

Super-psi allows for survived mind as it evolved with the evolving brain. Survival requires that mind precedes brain, and exists after brain dies. Super-psi and survival ignore the evidence of ITC. All three provide for the unconscious processing of information, the results of which emerge into consciousness but biased by worldview.

It is for you to decide which model makes the most sense. But be aware that what you decide will affect how sensed information emerges into your conscious awareness because your beliefs train your Attention Complex to filter sensed information to agree with your beliefs. For practicing mediums, this also has a lot to do with how messages should be explained to sitters.

As a certified NSAC medium, I serve our local Spiritualist Society with “spirit greetings.” It has always been a source of consternation to me whether or not what I deliver is psychic or mediumistic. Of course, I understand the difference, but after spending so many decades poking around in my mind, the only sense of certainty that the message comes from a loved one is the unexpected nature of what comes to my conscious awareness.

The best solution for me would be if our community changed its point of view away from psychic and/or medium to trans-communicator. The measure of my ability would be the lucidity of my access to my unconscious mind.

Perhaps “transcommunicator” is a better term.


  1. Carpenter, James C, Ph.D. First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4422-1392-0 (ebook)
  2. Butler, Tom, “Etheric Fields,” Etheric Studies, 2015, ethericstudies.org/etheric-fields/
  3. Butler, Tom, “Implicit Cosmology,” Etheric Studies, 2014, ethericstudies.org/implicit-cosmology/
  4. Sheldrake, Rupert PhD. “Morphic Resonance and Morphic Fields,” on the Rupert Sheldrake Biologist and Author website, sheldrake.org/research/morphic-resonance/
  5. Butler, Tom, “Perception,” Etheric Studies, 2015, ethericstudies.org/perception/
  6. Copeland, Martha, I’m Still Here, AA-EVP Publishing, 2005, ISBN: 0-9727493-1-4, evpcommunications.com
  7. Copeland, Martha, EVP: “Doja … no!” atransc.org/examples/martha_copeland_evp.htm
  8. Pearson, Ron, “Survival Physics,” World ITC, 2003, worlditc.org/f_19_pearson_afterlife_quantum.htm
  9. Butler, Tom and Lisa, “Hans Bender’s Message at Reno Séance’s,” Association TransCommunication, 2013, atransc.org/circle/hans_bender_speaks.htm
  10. “What is Anomalistic Psychology?,” Goldsmiths, University of London, 2015, gold.ac.uk/apru/what/
  11. Tom, “Creative Process,” Etheric Studies, 2014, ethericstudies.org/creative-process/

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