Deathbed visions and the paranormal

Last weekend I spent a delightful twenty-four hours with a group of Christian parapsychologists.  Yes, those belonging to the Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies are more than open to the weird and wonderful, and even the downright scary and unexplainable.

Thank goodness for that, because every few years they hold a conference to share their experiences with each other, and to add to the paranormal research that is happening in the UK, and in fact, all over the world.  I was there because I had been invited to give a paper on The D-Word:Talking about Dying – but more about that a little later.

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Lord Layard’s Action for Happiness, and the wisdom of Carl Jung

Last week was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me.  So, while I applaud Lord Richard Layard’s enthusiasm for launching his Action for Happiness movement this week (inspired by Gretchin Rubin’s Happiness Project), I do wonder whether those in the government pursuing this agenda understand just how complex, contradictory and sometimes dark the pursuit of happiness can be.

In fact, I doubt that many of us are capable of maintaining a constant state of happiness (I hope that’s not what Lord Layard is intending).   For example, today’s BBC news – Two British men shot dead in Florida; Girls behaviour in schools deterioating;  Deadly attack on Afghan ministry; Japanese facing nuclear crisis from crippled Fukushima plant. I haven’t even got to what’s happening in Libya –  shows that human nature is simply not constructed that way. The dark side will out.

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Professor Brian Cox, God, and the Universe

It’s Professor Brian Cox who dunnit for me, in the sitting room, with his BBC series, The Wonders of the Universe.

His extraordinary programmes have fundamentally changed my understanding of God. Although I have never been a practicing Christian, I have always had a profound belief in God as an external force.  By this I mean an omniscient intelligence that guides and nurtures me. My interpretation of this God-like presence is very personal, but it has given me great comfort in times of despair, and has provided a moral cornerstone for how to live my life.

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Pace-maker fitted for 97 year-old woman. Has the world gone completely mad?

I appreciate that care for the elderly by the NHS has become a contentious issue, but has the world gone completely mad?

My friend Diana popped in for a cuppa, and proceeded to tell me how her 97-year-old godmother has just had a pacemaker fitted. Since her godmother had expressly told her that she’d had enough of life, and wanted to die, Diana was understandably horrified.

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Does belief in life after death really matter?

I received a message on the answer phone last Thursday from BBC1’s Sunday morning programme, The Big Questions. Would I be interested in taking part in a live debate about life after death?  I immediately called back, and spoke to a breathy young researcher.

‘I’ve got your name because of the research you’ve done with Dr Peter Fenwick on death and dying,’ she told me. ‘Do you believed in an afterlife?’

‘I’m not sure,’ I replied. ‘But I don’t think it really matters. I believe the way we die is far more important.’

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