Vail Symposium’s consciousness series continues Monday, Tuesday | VailDaily.com

Vail Symposium’s consciousness series continues Monday, Tuesday

Julie Beischel, Ph.D., is the co-founder and director of research at the Windbridge Institute in Tucson, Ariz. where she studies afterlife topics using empirical research studies. She is in town this week for a series of Vail Symposium event. Today she'll lead a workshop at the Vail Public Library from 3 to 7 p.m.

If you go …

What: “Does Consciousness survive death? Evidence from the laboratory with Julie Beischel, Ph.D.”

When: Monday, 5:30 p.m. reception; 6 p.m. presentation.

Where: The Antlers at Vail. Please park in the Lionshead Parking Structure.

Cost: $25 in advance (before 2 p.m. on event day) or $35 at the door; $10 students, teachers, Symposium members.

What: Julie Beischel Workshop.

When: 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Vail Public Library.

Cost: Tickets are $50, space is limited.

More information: Visit http://www.vailsymposium.org.

VAIL — What happens when you die?

It's a question with wildly varying answers depending upon who you ask.

"When it comes to issues of the afterlife, a lot of people rely on their religious faith or cultural traditions for answers," said Julie Beischel, Ph.D., the co-founder and director of research on the topic at the Windbridge Institute in Tucson, Arizona. "For those of us who look to science to answer life's great questions, the current scientific paradigm discourages inquiry in this area. However, science is a tool for learning, not a dogma. As scientists, we have an obligation to objectively and empirically study one of the most fundamental questions that defines the human condition: What happens when we die?"

The Windbridge Institute, which she runs with her husband and research partner, Mark Boccuzzi, is the only organization in the U.S. whose primary focus is empirical studies of afterlife topics, said Beischel, who received her doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology from the University of Arizona in 2003. Rather than pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry, she went an entirely different direction, choosing to study afterlife topics.

She visits Vail this week for two Vail Symposium events, both part of the ongoing consciousness series. Beischel answered a few questions for the Vail Daily.

Vail Daily: What can people expect from your visit to Vail next week, both at the talk on Monday and the workshop on Tuesday?

Julie Beischel: During my presentation on Monday, I'll discuss my empirical research with mediums, people who experience regular communication with the deceased, and specifically the findings from 10 years of laboratory research collected under blinded conditions that control for all normal, sensory explanations for where the mediums are getting their information. I'll also be talking about the unique physiological and psychological characteristics of mediums and the role medium readings may play in grief recovery. Overall, this research with mediums, similar to research on near-death experiences, seems to demonstrate that there is a non-local aspect to consciousness that doesn't end at the skull and isn't erased with the death of the body. Along those lines, I'll also talk about our research on other aspects of the limitless nature of consciousness. We'll also do a demonstration in which a unique piece of art is created from data collected from equipment while an intention is set by the group of attendees.

At the workshop on Tuesday, I'll discuss the different types of after-death communication regularly experienced by people after the death of a loved one; how people interested in receiving a medium reading can optimize the experience; and suggestions for people interested in experiencing communication with the deceased for themselves. In addition, two Windbridge certified research mediums, Traci Bray and Eliza Rey, will talk about their experiences, answer questions and providing demonstration gallery readings for attendees in which they'll convey messages from loved ones.

VD: Tell us about one Windbridge Institute study that really stands out in your mind?

JB: There are two studies that are both in the process of being published that really dovetail to provide an understanding of what at least some mediums are doing. In one, 58 phone readings were performed by 20 Windbridge certified research mediums under fully blinded conditions and the resulting accuracy data show that those mediums were reporting accurate and specific information about the deceased with no prior information, no feedback and without using fraud or deception. That study is a replication and extension — because, in science, it's not real until it happens twice — of an earlier study involving 16 readings.

In the second study just completed, 10 Windbridge certified research mediums performed two readings each: one for a deceased person and one for a living person without knowing whether any given person was alive or dead. There, 74 percent of the time, the medium accurately determined whether the reading was for a living person or a deceased person. In addition, the mediums completed a standardized questionnaire after each reading that showed that, under blinded conditions, they experienced the feeling of love to a greater degree during readings for deceased people that they did when reading for the living.

VD: Rather than focus on a career in the pharmaceutical industry, you've pursued rigorous scientific research with mediums. Why?

JB: While I was in graduate school working toward my Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology with a minor in microbiology and immunology, I lost someone close to me. Some years later, I learned what a medium was, decided to investigate the phenomenon and received what turned out to be an evidential reading from a local medium. When sharing my experience with other scientists who tried to convince me that all mediums were con-artists and that I was somehow duped, I realized that there was this whole population of people with a sense or perception that science had yet to understand who were being lumped together as a group and dismissed as charlatans. I'm a big fan of justice and was really irked by the unfairness of that. Granted, there have been and still are fraudulent mediums scamming the grieving, but that was not my experience as a scientist receiving a reading with a wary eye. So I decided that mediums as a group needed a scientist to apply rigorous, "hard science" methods to objectively, and without bias either way, address the phenomenon. A number of strange coincidences later, this has been my full-time job for over a decade.

VD: Are you a medium yourself or have any special gifts we should know about?

JB: I am not a medium and have no more psychic ability than any other random person, which is some but not to a consistent or reliable degree. However, as far as special gifts go, I am a rather awesome scientist.

VD: You've worked with 18 mediums, which you call "laboratory tested." what does that mean exactly?

JB: Each Windbridge certified research medium was screened, tested and trained over several months using a peer-reviewed eight-step procedure that involves interviews, questionnaires and accuracy testing under fully-blinded conditions that account for all normal, sensory explanations for the source of the information they report. Certified research mediums are part of our research team and each agrees to donate his or her time to research and to specific standards of conduct. Links to the article detailing this 8-step procedure and to all of our other peer-reviewed research papers are available at http://www.windbridge.org/publications.

The certification program was funded by a research grant and that grant has ended. We are no longer certifying new mediums.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.