Let's cut to the chase on this. What is a psychic? Dictionaries define "psychic" as, "Inexplicable
with reference to present knowledge or scientific theory."
True enough, but it doesn't go very deeply into the reality of the thing. Another definition is,
"Sensitive or responsive to phenomenon independent of normal sensory stimuli; also a person who
has this ability."
Much hangs on the phrase "sensory stimuli," but let's clear up some definitions first. People with
psychic abilities receive their information in several ways. A clairvoyant ("clear vision") sees
things not perceived by normal vision; some believe this happens via the so-called "third eye". A
clairaudient ("clear hearing") hears words or phrases in their heads that do not come from a
physical source (this is to be distinguished from the hallucinations of certain mental illnesses
wherein one "hears God" or some other figure). A clairsentient ("clear feeling") receives
sensations such as a pain in their foot that is actually being felt by another person; sometimes
this is described as "tuning in and feeling the sensations in someone else's body." Finally, and
most important in the context of Robert Brown's book We Are Eternal, a "medium" is a person who connects directly
with the spirits of people no longer on the earth. When a medium receives a message from someone
"in spirit" and conveys it to the individual to whom the message is directed, the medium is a
go-between, not an interpreter.
At heart is the principle that the message, not the messenger, is what counts. Even hardened
skeptics come to doubt their skepticism if they go to enough demonstrations by enough mediums. The
facts and relationships communicated are simply too numerous and too accurate to idly dismiss.
There are, to be sure, varying abilities among mediums -- it is, after all, a largely learned
ability -- and there are some who use "cold readings," or using the power of suggestion to zero in on
what the sitter really wants to hear. Aggrandizing one's abilities happens with just about any
profession, so it's unwise to blacken the profession of mediumship too hastily with the doubting
brush. Those who remain skeptic to the last should visit the website of a University of Arizona
professor named Gary Schwartz (http://www.openmindsciences.com/ and
http://www.openmindsciences.com/whitecrow-exp.htm). Schwartz has conducted numerous
stringent double-blind scientific studies in which the medium can't possibly know or ferret out
the sitter's expectations. Despite all the barriers, the messages from beyond this life still
come, and are accurate.
The cumulative effect of all this research and practical experience is that mediumship and psychic
receptivity are just as valid as other forms of evidence. Psychics and mediums know, for example,
that there are other senses beyond touch, sight, smell, and so on. What might these be?
Well, sense of balance, sense of awareness, sense of direction, sense of self, sense of
intuition -- these are a few. In a room with other people in it, what draws your eyes to the one
person there who is looking directly at you? If these elude the explicable and yet are still facts
of experience, why are psychic phenomenon so far-fetched?
Robert Brown's book is about the development of his mediumship abilities and the things he has
learned practicing it. He has a several important messages to convey. The book's title, We Are
Eternal, sums his message in three words. In anecdote after anecdote, combined with his
well-thought-through philosophical explanations, he demonstrates that our personal identity as it
exists on earth lives on after us. In the state of being called "in spirit," our identity keeps
its sense of self and of one's family. There is, in other words, no "death" except in a cellular
sense. Death is the closing of this life's biophysical door to enter a different kind of room, the
domain of the spirit self. The person who passes through it is unchanged; only the room has
This spiritual claim is denounced by every major religion. Most religions insist, without a shred
of experiential evidence to say why, that upon death the spirit or soul becomes an abstract,
transcendent entity void of any identity except for its relationship to the Creator. Why exactly
this attitude exists is hard to say, but most religions flat-out deny that emotions, personality,
and memories can pass into the spirit state and exist there just as they do in this world. Our
emotions, personality, and memory are irretrievably glued to our spirit, not our life. A person in
spirit is an actual person, the same person who was alive on earth.
Institutional religions are not the only naysayers. Psychic phenomenon are likewise rejected by
the two dominant intellectualisms of the Western Grain, scientific method and the rationalist view
of truth founded on the principle of methodical doubt.
Let's take the first. Certainly psychic phenomenon are "unscientific", based on the term's
self-definition. But in the unsolved mystery department the sciences have plenty of skeletons in
their own closet. Cosmologists haven't a clue what makes up the 75 percent of the universe called
"dark energy," and are still pretty clueless about an additional 20 percent called "dark matter"
(though they are confident they will one day quantify it). Yes, those numbers are correct: All the
ordinary matter -- electrons, neutrons, protons, and so on -- that comprise our bodies, the earth, the
stars, and the entire universe totals to less than five percent of all that is there.
Anthropologists tell us all about the survival of the fittest, but go silent on the issue of why
it exists and for what reason it was put here. Physics? What keeps electrons in atoms flying
around at specific distances from the nuclei of atoms? It isn't gravity, because their
infinitesimal mass would fly off in all directions at the velocities at which they orbit. The
answer is: light. The constant exchange of light between the electron and its nucleus keeps the
electron bound in its orbit. Give it enough extra energy from outside, e.g. heat, and it bounces
up to a higher orbit and ejects a ray of light that is so characteristic in its properties that we
have the word "spectrum" to define its energy state. Our eyes interpret this as red-hot versus
Going this one further, cosmologists have learned a lot about the properties of the universe but
still can't say why it was made in such a way as to proceed from its original state of infinite
density to a state of utter nothingness. Physicists have very clear ideas about the various laws
that govern the behavior of matter, but haven't a clue why these laws came into being or for what
reason. Hence it is arbitrary to single out psychics and mediums and say they're nothing but
speculative dreamers or overly gullible.
Let's examine the message, not the vehicle, at the core of Robert Brown's book. We Are Eternal,
says the front cover of his book, so then, "Does the gentleman really prove it?"
You must decide for yourself, but my conclusion is "Yes." But first, full disclosure time: I have
been read by Robert and three other professional mediums. All of them pulled information literally
out of the air they could not possibly have known. Robert once accurately described the close
friendship between my deceased wife and my deceased aunt, accurately giving their names without
any knowledge of my family background. A psychic named Peter Serraino once looked at me, seated in
the midst of a dozen others in a room, and said, "You have a pain in your left foot." I did, a
callus that had split.
Mediumship can be better thought of not as hearing voices but as parting of a veil. There is an
excellent metaphor that, to me, captures the truth behind the veil of Robert's message. It goes
A guru and his doubt-ridden disciple were waiting for someone to bring them some food.
"Why are you any different from me?" the disciple grumbled. "We're both sitting here waiting for
If you substitute the word "medium" for "guru", you can better understand the psychic's and the
medium's role. Everyone has personal memories, desires, feelings, and dreams. The psychic or
medium is no different from anyone else. But by proclivity and training, mediums have learned to
slip beyond their own sensory limits for a time, to enter the state of claiming nothing as their
own, enabling themselves to see love, trust, truth, and eternity without the colored lenses of a
point of view. Think of this state as a spiritual steam bath, in which all the pores of awareness
are open and clean. The medium perceives with the eyes of the spirit, not the senses, just the
same as the guru.
"That's true," the guru said.
"We see the same room," the disciple went on. "We live in the same world. There's no difference at
The guru shook his head. "You say we live in the same world, but we don't. Your world is private;
no one else can enter it. It is made of personal memories, desires, feelings, and dreams. My world
is not private, it is open to all. It is eternal and unbounded. Nothing exists in it that I claim
as my own. Wherever I look I see love, trust, truth, and eternity."
The disciple rebutted. "If your world is so much better than mine, why are you here?"
"Because your world is only a dream," the guru said quietly. "And it gives me pleasure when
someone wakes up."
That's not to say mediums are saints one and all. Even the spiritually in touch have their bad
days. On page 179 Robert points out, "One of the reasons that mediums cannot function all the time
in 'receptive' mode is that at some point they have to be their physical selves."
The full reality of "the spirit" as understood by Robert is set forth simply and cheerily in 210
pages. In plan, the book proceeds from the particular to the general. This parallels his personal
development as a medium. The first several chapters are an engaging biography of a somewhat
wide-eyed young boy, at once curious and dubious of everything he's told. His first psychic
apparition was clairvoyant and occurred at age five: he saw a man out a window laughing in at him
in the dark night. This is easily dismissable as boy-sees-bogeyman stuff, except for the fact that
three years later he came across a photo of the same man in a family album and showed it to his
mother. She blanched and had to sit down to regain her composure. When she recovered she explained
it was her brother, who had died some years before.
In time Robert became acquainted with a circle of folks who realized they had psychic abilities
and met regularly to hone them. As he engagingly tells it, in some of his early efforts that he
self-evaluated as spectacular, the best he could wring out by way of encouragement from more
experienced hands was a "Not bad," and invitations to return.
The rest of his biography is something of a spiritual rags-to-riches tale. Robert is among the
handful of truly top-ranking mediums in the world. Yet he remains modest about it. He is not one
for name-dropping, but a number of celebrity names do appear. TV and bestseller personalities like
John Edward and James Van Praagh consulted him by phone without revealing who they were -- and then
rang up for more. A lesser person might crow this to the skies, but Robert expends little ink on
hobnobbing with the celebs and much more on his relationship with Peter Close, who among today's
generation of mediums is the equivalent of the writer's writer.
Robert's book really takes off in a chapter named, "So What Have the Spirits Told Me?" There he
deals with the vexatious issues of suicide ("taking oneself over"); the passing of a child; what
biological and psychological disease reveal about our psychic state; the afterlife of pets (there
is one, though the cats don't shed so badly as before); and a critique of traditional religions
from a medium's insights of the afterlife.
All these are canapés, so to speak, leading to the salad, his discussion of reincarnation and the
laws of karma. These two notions are not necessarily linked, nor are they native to most regions
in the world. They have often been appropriated by people who believe that anything from India is
better than anything else. That does not make them ipso facto true. He suggests,
evidence for man's survival after physical death as an intelligent, conscious individual has been
well demonstrated and documented over many centuries... Through all the thousands of spirit
contacts I have had I found no evidence to prove that man reincarnates... My problem with
[karma] is that we are, according to those who believe in reincarnation, a sum total of all that
we have been." In keeping with his primary thesis -- who we are in the physical world is who we are
in the spiritual world -- Robert ascribes "reincarnation" phenomenon to deja vu instead. Deja vu is a
sense, by memory or feeling, that you have been somewhere or perceived something before. And too,
humans are famously wont to wish upon those they dislike some form of agonizing punishment in the
fires of hell (those who believe in a retributive system of just desserts never seem to consider
that others may be wishing the same upon them).
Robert's thesis is clearly Western in its linearity. His could be the tale of time, if time had a
spirit self, for time, too, leaps over the illusory barriers of the material and immaterial. He
leaves aside the prickly and indeed pointless questions of how spirit originates and what it does
after the earth ends billions of years from now. His more important point is that our spirit comes
into this earthly form with full knowledge of what it needs to experience, and proceeds along the
path of learning till "death," whereupon it passes into the spirit realm as a realized being.
However -- and equally Western -- he posits a free will. It is this free will that can opt to return,
perhaps to more fully realize its own being, perhaps to become a Bodhisattva figure, postponing
personal full realization in order to guide others to theirs.
Alas, all the foregoing is lamentably "Robert Lite," a mere taste of the thoughtfulness of his
book. His is a lucid read, solidly presented, and shorn of sensationalism and self-aggrandizement.
A hint of his character can be divined by the fact that he shuns TV as the vehicle of his message
and instead sticks to public gatherings and private sessions. Sitting there on a dais, except for
the messages he pulls out of the spirit realm and conveys to attendees, you'd think he was a shoe
salesman who blundered through the wrong door.
It is time to step back from his book and look at his message in that second tradition of the
Western Grain, rational doubt. He is, to be sure, "Western", but only to a point. His message is
that the great truths from our souls are not hidden behind the appearance of things, they are
hidden in plain sight. They are uttered to us by voices we can hear, if we are willing to listen
beyond our cloud of unknowing.
To the cloud of unknowing our egos have two responses: doubt till proven true, or believe till
proven false. Much of the Western approach to knowledge is founded on the first. It has rewarded
us rather well. We doubted myth and we got to hope. We doubted theology and got to humanism. We
doubted authority and got to democracy. The French philosopher Descartes founded his entire
world-view on doubt, inspiring much of Western thinking that followed. He doubted and doubted till
he could doubt no more, and what was left was the mind doing the doubting. This is codified as "I
think, therefore I am." Somewhat later Immanuel Kant came along and threw cold water on all that,
asserting that one can never know the true nature of things; we can rely only on appearances, and
of appearances, thought is but one.
Robert offers us something entirely different, that we should feel neither loss nor despair at our
unknowing, but rather bewonder the beautiful flowering that unfolds from impenetrable mystery.
Robert has generous company. Nearly every artist tries to capture this same flowering, but in the
realm of feelings instead of the spirit.
Robert's method is to ask what happens if we instead systematically accept. Accept and accept till
we can accept no more. What do we get? We get that all knowledge is valid, and if all knowledge is
valid, all knowers are, too. We get "I am of you as you are of me." Keep up this chain of
acceptance and we arrive at a destination almost every belief system posits somewhere in its core:
We are one with all beings who have ever lived, and ever will. The great unity of being slides in
and out of this world that we call life. This unexpected juxtaposition moves the astute reader of
Robert's book past conceptual oppositions towards that certain point in the development of the
mind from which life and death, the real and the imaginary, past and future, the communicable and
the incommunicable, the high and the low, cease to be seen as contradictory. I am not a me, I am a
we. All of us are all of each other.
The medium's relationship with the spiritual makes possible moral guidelines by which one can
manage one's life in society -- guidelines that do not depend on heroic archetypes, myths, poorly
understood natural phenomenon that later are found to be purely natural, or an architecture of
humanity devoted to explaining it all and tidying up the loose ends. Robert's is akin to the
Buddha's ethos: you alone are responsible for what happens to you. The only way to attain a sense
of balance in the face of so many conflicting beliefs, and perhaps the best way to come into touch
with one's own spirit, is to do exactly the opposite of Descartes, accept, accept, accept, and
discover where we are taken. The medium, truly, is the message.