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Michael Grosso is a teacher, author, and painter, whose interests span psychical research, metaphysical art, the parapsychology of religion, and, primarily, philosophy. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy, and studied classical Greek, at Columbia University, and has taught at City University of New York, Marymount Manhattan College, and City University of New Jersey. He has published books on topics ranging from life after death to the mythologies of endtime.

He presently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he is affiliated with the Division of Personality Studies of UVA. On the Board of Directors of the American Philosophical Practitioner's Association and reviews editor of its Journal, Michael conducts Wisdom Seminars, discussion groups that apply philosophy to problems of everyday life.

Experiencing the Next World Now?

By Michael Grosso

How did a philosopher trained in an age of science and reason become an aficionado of spirits, a hunter of marvels and miracles? It’s a question I often ask myself. I guess it boils down to personal experience. When I was a boy my mother told me strange stories-to take one example-about her sitting by an open window in a sweltering apartment on the lower East Side in New York. Suddenly a cold breeze from nowhere went through her, and she sensed her father’s spirit. Later she learned that at that moment her father had died. And my mother regularly regaled us with stories of Padre Pio’s miracles.


When I was a teenager my brother told me how one day he found himself looking down on his body from the ceiling. He was so struck by the experience that he thought of writing a letter to a place I had never heard of-the American Society of Psychical Research. Even I remember as a boy once praying to theVirgin Mary to stop a killer toothache that hit me out of the blue and the pain vanishing after three Hail Marys. On the other hand, as far as my belief-system went, by the time I finished high school I was already a born-again pagan.


When I finally got to graduate school at Columbia University I discovered how preconceptions can close people’s minds. For my fellow philosophy students it was heretical to take the idea of spirits seriously and they spoke enthusiastically about exorcising the “ghost” in the machine. The idea was that we are essentially meat machines, nothing more. They took righteous pleasure striving to deflate all our higher spiritual pretensions. The official party line was that we are just accidental tourists in a universe devoid of purpose.


But was this image of “man the machine” true? It was fashionable but was it the whole story? Not according to my experience. If my professors (and fellow students) were right, my mother’s ghost was a sham, my brother’s out-of-body flight an illusion, and the answer to my prayer a delusion. (The truth is, I continued to have paranormal experiences, see my book Soulmaking [1997].) But if these experiences had any truth in them, the prevailing materialism had to be false.


Of course I couldn’t rely solely on my own experience, so I set out to research the mystery of consciousness by combing the historical records and talking with other people about their unusual experiences. And I studied what serious, open-minded, and critical investigators discovered from their researches.


So, is there another world? For one thing, I learned that my family and I were typical; reports of anomalous spookiness are fairly commonplace. My experience has been that almost anybody you talk to either has had some unusual experience or knows somebody who has. All together-in light of my own experience and the careful systematic research of others-I found stubborn patterns of evidence pointing to something postmortem. Increasingly it came to look as if our mental life can transcend its neural substrate.


Of course, it’s easy to be hypnotized into believing in the mechanistic worldview. The amazing success of modern technology has helped to seduce us. Modern life in many ways is the embodiment of antispiritual worldview. I realized that for me I had to keep putting matters to a personal test. I recalled the teaching of Socrates who paradoxically said that to philosophize was to practice death and dying. What he meant by this was that we have to free ourselves from all the mental and emotional clutter that distracts our consciousness and prevents us from seeing, sensing, and feeling the larger reality about which we’re normally clueless. In short, the challenge was to experience the “next” world now myself.

The latter part of my book Experiencing the Next World Now (2004) attempts to describe how that is possible. The most important point was that by means of spiritual exercise and simple changes in lifestyle such as diet and work habits one could make oneself more transparent to intimations of immortality. These practices and lifestyle changes are based on the perennial experiments of the shamans, mystics and mediums of all ages and cultures. Glimpses of a greater reality are possible for us all. It is possible to adapt old practices to our busy lifestyles and slowly re-orient consciousness toward the transcendent pole of our being. Everything depends on our intentions and expectations.

 

My friends call me a Ghost Magnet.  I'm always either pounding away on my keyboard or chasing ghosts. My only other hobby is genealogy, which is chasing dead relatives.







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