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Medium Contacts Nonexistent Brother PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   
I'm always on the lookout for skeptical depictions of mediums in fiction, such as Robert Browning's delicious poem "Mr. Sludge the Medium." I just found another example where I least expected, and I wanted to share it with readers of Swift.

Latin American literature is famous for "magical realism" and its fiction is replete with ghosts and spooky doings. Yet I found a thoroughly skeptical view of a medium in Mario Vargas Llosa's novel "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter."

The protagonist is taken to a séance by a friend. The medium is a widower who discovered the spirit world during a phase of abject loneliness after his wife died, and he comments that séances not only allow one to continue seeing and hearing departed loved ones, but they are entertaining and are a great way of killing time. His description makes it sound like a séance is comparable to watching a movie or a sports event, only more boring. In his unimaginative version of the other life, the spirits get sick, fall in love, get married, reproduce, travel... the only difference is that they don't die. He calls up several spirits from Purgatory and engages in stunningly inane conversations, "How are you? It's so nice to hear you. Pray for me. Give my regards to X."

The protagonist's friend asks the medium to call up someone who is in Hell. The medium, without even hesitating, explains that he can only contact spirits in Hell during the first 3 days of uneven months and even then you can barely hear their voices.

The protagonist asks the medium to contact his brother John, who promptly comes and tells him (through the voice of the medium) not to worry about him because he is with God and is praying for him constantly. The protagonist thinks to himself that his "brother's" message is a bit surprising, considering that he is an only child!

On the way home, he kids his friend, saying that all the poetry and mystery of the afterlife have been destroyed for him, that he can no longer be agnostic but has been forced to recognize that the afterlife is real - and now he has to live with the certainty that death turns everyone into imbeciles, and he can only look forward to an eternity of cretinism and boredom.

Vargas Llosa is listed as a humanist laureate by the International Academy of Humanism.

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written by daveg703, February 16, 2009
...the certainty that death turns everyone into imbeciles, and he can only look forward to an eternity of cretinism and boredom.


Ah, but my response to that is, "Are imbeciles ever bored?" They may be boring, but I see boredom as resulting from a mind that is capable of a degree of activity, but which finds no outlet for expression. I believe the intellect hungers constantly for exercize.
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written by SheldonHelms, February 16, 2009
Great find, Harriet! This reminds me of the statement I repeat to my Experimental Psychology students: "In social science, we deal in evidence, not 'proof.' Proof is when you show people enough evidence to convince them. And some people just refuse to be convinced."
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written by polomint38, February 16, 2009
Maybe daddy had been naughty and he had a half brother he didn't know about smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by Mikebo, February 17, 2009
There's no surprise in a medium contacting a non-existant person: aren't all the people they "contact" non-existant?
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Bad spelling
written by Mikebo, February 17, 2009
Sorry, I meant non-existenEnt! (With or without hyphen).
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written by Cuddy Joe, February 17, 2009
Well, there's a difference between no longer existing and never existed.
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written by BillyJoe, February 17, 2009
non-existenEnt?
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Oh the Irony
written by Realitysage, February 17, 2009
Why can't people accept it that death is just natures way of killing you?
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written by EricLR, February 17, 2009
I've often wondered why I've never seen a video where the investigators have set up someone like Edwards, etc, by having them give a reading about a dead sibling/child that actually never existed.
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written by polomint38, February 18, 2009
I've often wondered why I've never seen a video where the investigators have set up someone like Edwards, etc, by having them give a reading about a dead sibling/child that actually never existed.


It wouldn't prove anything, as the spirits would know that they were being played. Spirits do not like this and would play along giving false information.

It's obvious really.
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written by Slaughter, February 19, 2009
I like how Groucho Marx stumped a medium: "What's the capital of North Dakota?" smilies/cheesy.gif
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