Dr. Michael Shermer on Near-Death Experience Science |379|

I have a friend who claims to have a pretty amazing pre-birth memory. I take it with a grain of salt, but hes not one to exaggerate or lie. I find his account fascinating and it directly relates to your post here regarding a baby gaining consciousness. Ill share it here with you guys as we were talking about it once through Facebook on Messenger. I'll dump it here:

"I remember a previous incarnation attempt where after the “veil” came over me I reacted in fear and forced myself “back out” again, which killed the fetus. Having returned to the other side I remember being back in bliss, and knowing nothing was truly wrong, yet recognizing fully the grief and negative impact I had caused not only the poor mother (her human experience) but many others who were affected by the mother. I couldn’t believe that despite my good intentions, my own fear was so strong that I could have such a negative effect. I vowed to not let that happen again. So I “trained” in something like a “veil accepting simulator” for awhile.

Eventually I ended up being presented with my current life potential (which was not as optimal for my specific purposes as the last one but still not bad). I remember very excitedly reviewing a huge vast “flow chart” of millions of possibilities about what “being” that life would be like, all at once. I remember reviewing it with a guide, requesting certain things, and reviewing aspects of it. For instance I knew how important the confidence my father would nurture in me would be for my purpose, I knew the body had challenges that other bodies do not, and many other things. I remember being excited (excitement was the key feeling!) that I would have the opportunity to re-engage a very old very low vibration / fear that I deeply desire to integrate, I knew an experience in my early adulthood would likely occur that would allow me to re-confront that (and it did). I do not remember actually accepting the life, but I do remember suddenly the moment when being instructed to accept the veil, needing to “dive in” with all my intent and focus, allowing it come over me (but leaving a small “window open” so I would retain some awareness of it, even though I was told that doing so would make my experience more challenging).

The “veil” coming over you is like (and again words are just so inadequate!) a drop in vibration of such magnitude that suddenly you feel like you are existing in a vacuum rather than being connected to everything. Your “knowing” is cut-off, and suddenly you feel isolated and alone, in the body. I held on as long as I could, allowing the veil to “sink in,” eventually sending a message back through the window: “Is it done? Did it ‘take’?” and being told “Yes.” I held on as long as I could… but the vibration was so low, that after awhile I again responded in fear. I started fighting and pushing once again to leave- I had already had enough! (and I was still in utero)- but then this incredibly powerful “I Am” presence of God coming over me and showing me all the galaxies, reminding me “this is still what you are.” It was bliss. It calmed me, and I remember “relaxing” into the very simple (yet confining!) existence of dwelling in the womb. I have one visceral image memory then of the day I was born, which was after what I just described. These pre-birth memories are very dissimilar from my waking childhood and adult physical memories- they are “timeless” in feeling, vast, not restricted to single ideas or images, and filled with great feeling."
This is very similar to Andy Paquette's experience in Dreamer - to the extent that he had a pre-life review with a guide. Others report the same thing.
 
Not everyone wants to do this kind of thing. After all, most people experience ordinary lives, and I believe there is a purpose in doing that. Such experiences as I've had, I haven't sought and were spontaneous, and I value them because of that. I think we're here to engage life and learn from it honestly and straightforwardly in mundane terms; and if occasionally we should have spontaneous experiences, well, that's part and parcel of our journey.

I don't fully understand why it's useful to be incarnate and learn in this way, but it's my working hypothesis that it is. I don't see the point in experimenting with OBEs, lucid dreams, astral projection and so on, because, if they are intimations of a higher self or state of being, presumably soon enough I'll be in that state any way. Meanwhile I see them as a distraction from my main task, which is to negotiate life, experiencing all its challenges and rewards.

There's also the point that one can experience the marvel of being alive without any special faculties. If one seeks such experiences, it may be because one is dissatisfied with the hand one has been dealt, and rather than find a way to come to terms with it, seeks escape into the weird and wonderful. Maybe sometimes people miss significant opportunities for spiritual development because they're too distracted by seeking escape from life's exigencies.

Sufis say we should be fully in the world, but not consider ourselves to be of it. I can understand the temptations of trying to escape, and for a few years was sidetracked by that. But they caution against seeking unusual experiences just for the sake of it. I used to be disgruntled by that, but at a certain point it began to make sense, and when I stopped looking for the transcendent, it came of its own accord, albeit not in the shape of "strange" experiences.

I've found one exercise quite useful. Just observe someone else doing something that they truly enjoy doing. It could be anything -- with my mother, it used to be eating; with my father, pottering about the garden and tinkering with his fish pond; with my sister, singing.

Someone else might enjoy disco dancing or climbing mountains; it could be anything. Don't try to intervene or be judgemental; just be an observer, and when you manage that, you may experience sheer bliss. I suppose it's easiest when watching young children unselfconsciously at play. At such times, they're completely delightful, completely in their moment, and you as a non-judgemental observer can pick up on that. It's a small, but definitely transcendental experience that helps one waken to the marvel of an ordinary life.
I am sympathetic to your point of view here. The gentle ability to be in the world without attachment and judgement is powerful. When we start to get curious about, and interested in, other states of awareness it is time to do so.

Some say that the ideal is to be aware on several levels at once - in the physical world, but not of it in the sense that one is aware of, and in, the deeper dimension at the same time.

I suspect that we enhance our 'being in the world' when we are aware of what is beyond it. It is when we are aware there is more that we can become more detached (less of the world) and more freely in it. Knowledge of life after death, is said to be liberating.
 
Not everyone wants to do this kind of thing. After all, most people experience ordinary lives, and I believe there is a purpose in doing that. Such experiences as I've had, I haven't sought and were spontaneous, and I value them because of that. I think we're here to engage life and learn from it honestly and straightforwardly in mundane terms; and if occasionally we should have spontaneous experiences, well, that's part and parcel of our journey.

I don't fully understand why it's useful to be incarnate and learn in this way, but it's my working hypothesis that it is. I don't see the point in experimenting with OBEs, lucid dreams, astral projection and so on, because, if they are intimations of a higher self or state of being, presumably soon enough I'll be in that state any way. Meanwhile I see them as a distraction from my main task, which is to negotiate life, experiencing all its challenges and rewards.

There's also the point that one can experience the marvel of being alive without any special faculties. If one seeks such experiences, it may be because one is dissatisfied with the hand one has been dealt, and rather than find a way to come to terms with it, seeks escape into the weird and wonderful. Maybe sometimes people miss significant opportunities for spiritual development because they're too distracted by seeking escape from life's exigencies.

Sufis say we should be fully in the world, but not consider ourselves to be of it. I can understand the temptations of trying to escape, and for a few years was sidetracked by that. But they caution against seeking unusual experiences just for the sake of it. I used to be disgruntled by that, but at a certain point it began to make sense, and when I stopped looking for the transcendent, it came of its own accord, albeit not in the shape of "strange" experiences.

I've found one exercise quite useful. Just observe someone else doing something that they truly enjoy doing. It could be anything -- with my mother, it used to be eating; with my father, pottering about the garden and tinkering with his fish pond; with my sister, singing.

Someone else might enjoy disco dancing or climbing mountains; it could be anything. Don't try to intervene or be judgemental; just be an observer, and when you manage that, you may experience sheer bliss. I suppose it's easiest when watching young children unselfconsciously at play. At such times, they're completely delightful, completely in their moment, and you as a non-judgemental observer can pick up on that. It's a small, but definitely transcendental experience that helps one waken to the marvel of an ordinary life.
That sounds nice on the surface, but we must be in very different paths in life. I for one choose not to be consumed by worldly things such as a 9-5 jobs 5 days a week. Its hard to have any rich experience with that type of job schedule. Throw kids on top of that and its even less time. The Sufis can say say what they want, but it doesn't make them right. In fact I can google dozens of quotes which say the complete opposite. I can't figure out why people take an interest in this stuff and they claim they don't have time to hone their creative mental capabilities. Sacrificing posting on this board would free up time? Especially with the last bummer of an interview which clocked in at around an hour? I'm not telling people what to do, the post just seemed like a cop out.
 
That sounds nice on the surface, but we must be in very different paths in life. I for one choose not to be consumed by worldly things such as a 9-5 jobs 5 days a week. Its hard to have any rich experience with that type of job schedule. Throw kids on top of that and its even less time. The Sufis can say say what they want, but it doesn't make them right. In fact I can google dozens of quotes which say the complete opposite. I can't figure out why people take an interest in this stuff and they claim they don't have time to hone their creative mental capabilities. Sacrificing posting on this board would free up time? Especially with the last bummer of an interview which clocked in at around an hour? I'm not telling people what to do, the post just seemed like a cop out.
I don’t understand why it’s hard for you to believe honestly. But anyways, I personally am trying and several others on the board have actually had experiences. So I think your assessment is off in that regard, and with regards to assuming that if people have an interest in consciousness and spirituality, that this necassarily should translate into a consuming desire to obtain out of body experiences. Even if one wants to do it, it’s not easy to do. Not at all. Maybe you’re under the impression that it’s like taking up painting, and anybody can just do it, to varying degrees.

As Michael alluded to, if we are to take all the NDE, pre-birth, past life transgression therapy data etc etc. seriously, the purpose of life isn’t to have out of body experiences. And you don’t need to have an out of body experience to experience the wonder of creation. You’re experiencing it now by existing, by being conscious. An interest in spirituality and conscious doesn’t at all need to translate into a need to pop out of your body.

What method are you trying to induce and out out of body experience?
 
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That sounds nice on the surface, but we must be in very different paths in life. I for one choose not to be consumed by worldly things such as a 9-5 jobs 5 days a week. Its hard to have any rich experience with that type of job schedule. Throw kids on top of that and its even less time. The Sufis can say say what they want, but it doesn't make them right. In fact I can google dozens of quotes which say the complete opposite. I can't figure out why people take an interest in this stuff and they claim they don't have time to hone their creative mental capabilities. Sacrificing posting on this board would free up time? Especially with the last bummer of an interview which clocked in at around an hour? I'm not telling people what to do, the post just seemed like a cop out.
I think it is important to remember that people start here with a whole range of points of view. Initially my views were far less settled than now (if you can call my present views settled!). Back then hearing interviews like that was electrifying, because I gradually came to realise that the standard materialist position held by some well known people is unbelievably weak. There are always new people joining here who need to make that discovery for themselves.

Skeptiko also lets people join who do hold materialist views. Provided they play nice on the forum, they are able to say what they like. I think it is remarkable how little they contribute to core discussions (politics is a different matter).

I was recommended to read a Sufi book, and I must say I was underwhelmed! I think people vary in their approach to the nature of reality - even people on the same 'side'.

David
 
I for one choose not to be consumed by worldly things such as a 9-5 jobs 5 days a week. Its hard to have any rich experience with that type of job schedule. Throw kids on top of that and its even less time.
I am quite happily consumed with my life; kids and all. I've found it to be richly rewarding. I presume you do not have kids, and thus are ignorant to that particular experience?
 
But is anyone on this board doing it? You can learn to induce OBE and Lucid dreams and astral projections. I'm confused as to why this is not being done by the majority of the board
I have kept a dream journal, on and off, for about twenty years. I have been pretty good on it lately. I am trying to induce lucid dreams. I find dreaming fascinating. I've had a number of lucid dreams throughout my life, as well as just plain old mystifying dreams. I don't do much in the way of interpretation, I just like training myself to be present for my dreams. One of the strangest things is that when I'm writing and drawing dreams, I will have memories of dreams that I had years ago, that I hadn't thought about at all. It's not even a detailed memory, more like a suggestion of a memory. Hard to explain, but add memory into the aspects of mind that are extremely puzzling.

For me, it works best if I'm sleeping a lot. If I'm short changing myself on sleep, or if I'm particularly stressed, I'm less connected to my dreams.

There's also the point that one can experience the marvel of being alive without any special faculties. If one seeks such experiences, it may be because one is dissatisfied with the hand one has been dealt, and rather than find a way to come to terms with it, seeks escape into the weird and wonderful. Maybe sometimes people miss significant opportunities for spiritual development because they're too distracted by seeking escape from life's exigencies.

Sufis say we should be fully in the world, but not consider ourselves to be of it. I can understand the temptations of trying to escape, and for a few years was sidetracked by that. But they caution against seeking unusual experiences just for the sake of it. I used to be disgruntled by that, but at a certain point it began to make sense, and when I stopped looking for the transcendent, it came of its own accord, albeit not in the shape of "strange" experiences.
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This reminds me a little bit of Stephen Batchelor's secular interpretation of Zen practice. He recommended "What is this?" as a meditation mantra. As in, what is this experience of ordinary, day-to-day experience. I believe that some Western interpreters of Buddha's teachings have pointed out passages of teachings warning students to not get caught up in miraculous and mystical experiences (siddhis), which can be distractions. (I'm not advocating that position, just pointing it out.)

I don't know if I would call it a practice, but I like to play around with the idea that there may be some other realm, some unknowable source, and that the nature of the other realm is well and truly unknowable. If that is the case, mystical experiences such as NDEs and OBEs may have a touch of the realm beyond or they may be closer to the threshold of the realm beyond, but most of the experience, the memory, the categorization, and the description of such experiences would be mostly bound up in the material. So, according to this model, stories of OBEs, NDEs, etc, would be stories of profound fantasies. They may very well indicate closer brushes with some other realm, but the specific details, profound as they are, would be material interpretations of a very slight, mysterious perception of the other side filtered through our normal mental processor. That would be why NDE narratives oftentimes relate to a person's cultural beliefs, such seeing Christian figures or figures of the religion they grew up in.

The idea that the other side is truly unknowable forces speculation about it back into the realm of what we do know. It's not a matter of is there or is there not some other realm, it's more a question of how have we gotten to the point where we are--culturally--and how can we go into our cultural, historical, day-to-day existence and open ourselves up to a different perspective or context.
 
Just out of interest, which book was that?
The Sufis by Idries Shah.

I found I was endlessly told that the Sufi way was superior to those of the rest of us, but it never seemed to get down to something more concrete. I say never, but I suppose I really meant not before I just lost interest in the book.

I have a feeling you may have been the one to recommend it!

Can you give me some sort of potted notion of what they know/discovered/embody, that makes them superior?

David
 
That sounds nice on the surface, but we must be in very different paths in life. I for one choose not to be consumed by worldly things such as a 9-5 jobs 5 days a week. Its hard to have any rich experience with that type of job schedule. Throw kids on top of that and its even less time. The Sufis can say say what they want, but it doesn't make them right. In fact I can google dozens of quotes which say the complete opposite. I can't figure out why people take an interest in this stuff and they claim they don't have time to hone their creative mental capabilities. Sacrificing posting on this board would free up time? Especially with the last bummer of an interview which clocked in at around an hour? I'm not telling people what to do, the post just seemed like a cop out.
It does kind of sound like you're telling people what to do... and I get it: if you want to understand these "other realms" best thing to do is quit talking around the idea and jump right in and experience it for yourself, but honestly your comments remind me just a bit of people I used to know back in my fundy holy roller days. People have "an experience" and then its like they're Moses freshly descended from the mountain and still glowing and giving away free commandments.

In my opinion these mountain top experiences have a creative AND destructive element to them. That destruction can be a good thing if you need a little destruction - if you've built up bad habits or bad mindsets or a big ego and need a refresh. And perhaps that is why these experiences are so positive for people when they don't constantly seek them but when these experiences happen to smack them in the face out of nowhere. There has to be a balance... can't be so heavenly minded we're of no earthly good and all that. There's a reason Jesus was a carpenter (regardless of questions about historicity).

Yesterday I built this chair. Then I sat in it and watched the sunset while drinking a beer. Have you ever exhausted yourself building a chair and had the satisfaction of sitting in it at the end of the day? It was a damn fine spiritual experience. :) Next weekend I'll build another for my wife.

 
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But is anyone on this board doing it? You can learn to induce OBE and Lucid dreams and astral projections. I'm confused as to why this is not being done by the majority of the board
I am doing it. Last night I had precognitive dream of an accident in which a car and a train collided. That accident happened this morning:
http://www.iltalehti.fi/kotimaa/201805072200926429_u0.shtml

In my opinion these hits are worth the effort to keep a dream journal.
 
Can you give me some sort of potted notion of what they know/discovered/embody, that makes them superior?
Sufism seems to me to have a rather neoplatonist flavour and sits very well with Christian/Jewish mysticism. Most of its proponents frame it as an Islamic expression of the perennial philosophy and do not claim superiority over other creeds (in fact, I've never come across this superiority thing before).

Of course, Sufism isn't one monolithic entity and consists of various sects and traditions, including westernised 'pseudo' versions.

Wikipedia does a decent job outlining beliefs, history, teachings, etc.:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sufism

Seyyed Hossein Nasr wrote a wonderful book on Sufi metaphysics - The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/142133.The_Garden_of_Truth

Here he is talking on the goal of Sufism (you can get the gist, despite the Islamic phrases):

And if anyone's really interested:

 
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I think the best point made by Michael Shermer had to be the one about an absence of patients reporting the images that were intentionally placed in a position that could only be viewed by a patient having an OBE in their room. I understand that probably not every patient that has an OBE (assuming that these are experiences that at some stage correlate with an "objective" reality) will probably be thinking, "I gotta look for and remember that picture!" but it is a valid point. It's a shame that no one has found (I believe) the woman who had an OBE and allegedly saw a tennis shoe sitting on a hospital ledge that she couldn't have possibly seen beforehand. That might be one white crow.

For me the second best point that Michael made was the one about the difficulty of language and understanding. It's not that understanding is impossible but it's really easy to make assumptions about what other people mean without being aware that we are doing so.
 
The Sufis by Idries Shah.

I found I was endlessly told that the Sufi way was superior to those of the rest of us, but it never seemed to get down to something more concrete. I say never, but I suppose I really meant not before I just lost interest in the book.

I have a feeling you may have been the one to recommend it!

Can you give me some sort of potted notion of what they know/discovered/embody, that makes them superior?

David
Yeah. Thing is, with Idries Shah, he does tend to heap on the mysteriousness a bit and one may get the impression that the Sufi way is the only way, but a careful reading should dispel that. If memory serves, He speaks of the Kabbala and Christian mysticism, for example, and I think he indicates that they can be functionally equivalent to Sufism.

He also distinguishes Sufism from Islam, saying that Sufism always existed well before any of the current religions (which, in a way, he says Sufis invented). The transmission requires constant reformulation as cultures change, and he reckons many schools are functionally ineffective at the present time, such as the whirling dervish order started by Rumi. Apparently, the dance was in part designed originally to stir up the rather phlegmatic people in the Konya area of present-day Turkey. He reckoned the time is about ripe for a contemporary Western formulation, but doesn't really say how to find it. A lot of people think he introduced it, but there's some controversy about that.

I don't think "superior" is quite the right word. Sufism, after all, stresses humility; but still, I can see what you're saying. If you read past the bits that hint at superiority, he does in fact supply a lot of information consonant with what you'll find in other sources.

I think the potted version of what Sufis know isn't that different from what is known in other traditions, but usually spoken of with an Abrahamic, rather than an explicitly Hindu/Buddhist, nondualistic gloss. They concentrate, I'd say, on the ultimate aim being the complete annihilation of the self in God. Enlightenment seems to consist in the realisation that one has no choice but to comply with God's will -- of one's own free will, if that makes sense. One only has choice as long as one has an ego or lower self (nafs). Lose the nafs, and one loses the choice; at least, that's my understanding.

Getting to this exalted condition requires that one goes through a number of stages or makams (often said to number seven), though one can sometimes have glimpses of such stages known as hal, which can come quite spontaneously. There is no necessary condition for experiencing psi phenomena, though some people are said to do so. Shah reckoned that not a few disciples fall by the wayside when they become too attached to the possession of special powers, and claimed that anyone specifically seeking such powers probably isn't suited to the Sufi way.

Allegory plays a heavy role in Sufi teaching, and Shah's books are liberally sprinkled with them. Allegory has to be used because ordinary descriptive language can't convey meaning in the correct way. He also hinted at many exercises, maintaining that they weren't applied in all cases, but were specifically prescribed according to the status of the learner. Everyone's training schedule is different, and only a master knows which exercise is suitable.
 
I think the best point made by Michael Shermer had to be the one about an absence of patients reporting the images that were intentionally placed in a position that could only be viewed by a patient having an OBE in their room. I understand that probably not every patient that has an OBE (assuming that these are experiences that at some stage correlate with an "objective" reality) will probably be thinking, "I gotta look for and remember that picture!" but it is a valid point. It's a shame that no one has found (I believe) the woman who had an OBE and allegedly saw a tennis shoe sitting on a hospital ledge that she couldn't have possibly seen beforehand. That might be one white crow.
I read that the real problem with the AWARE study, was that it was really difficult to get a sufficient number of shelves placed in the right places in hospitals. This sounds trivial, but imagine - getting permission to add anything to an operating theatre is probably hard because of issues like infection. Many of the cardiac arrests happened in other parts of the hospital where shelves had not been placed.

I don't think ANY of the patients would be told what to look for - they were all very sick patients - before and after the arrest!

The thing to remember, is that a lot of people have NDE's and observe stuff relating to their specific resuscitation - one man had lost his glasses after the event, but told a nurse that he had seen her put his glasses in one particular place during the resuscitation - and bingo - he had his glasses back.

The only reason such events are not treated as evidence, is because there is a theory that people in cardiac arrest might still have some residual brain function AND be able to observe something and/or hear something AND remember it! How much can you see while receiving a dental procedure? In that situation you are awake and not in excessive discomfort. There is a group of people who simply push scepticism beyond limits - forcing people to place special shelves above hospital beds - and then forget to mention that the real problem was the logistics of doing that!

David
 
I don’t understand why it’s hard for you to believe honestly. But anyways, I personally am trying and several others on the board have actually had experiences. So I think your assessment is off in that regard, and with regards to assuming that if people have an interest in consciousness and spirituality, that this necassarily should translate into a consuming desire to obtain out of body experiences. Even if one wants to do it, it’s not easy to do. Not at all. Maybe you’re under the impression that it’s like taking up painting, and anybody can just do it, to varying degrees.

As Michael alluded to, if we are to take all the NDE, pre-birth, past life transgression therapy data etc etc. seriously, the purpose of life isn’t to have out of body experiences. And you don’t need to have an out of body experience to experience the wonder of creation. You’re experiencing it now by existing, by being conscious. An interest in spirituality and conscious doesn’t at all need to translate into a need to pop out of your body.

What method are you trying to induce and out out of body experience?
Its not about only OBEs, I just used that as an example. I can only imagine the progress humanity would make if they could make time to "get to know themselves" and the nature of reality
 
I am doing it. Last night I had precognitive dream of an accident in which a car and a train collided. That accident happened this morning:
http://www.iltalehti.fi/kotimaa/201805072200926429_u0.shtml

In my opinion these hits are worth the effort to keep a dream journal.
Definitely! I've had so many hits, why would I need a hack job like Shermer to tell me they are not real, or they are ancedotal. Only thing Shermer teaches me if how to look out for half truths, lies and the such. Keep up the good work! A dream journal is not time consuming at all
 
I am quite happily consumed with my life; kids and all. I've found it to be richly rewarding. I presume you do not have kids, and thus are ignorant to that particular experience?
Sounds pretty boring to be honest to each their own, rather travel the world, which I am in progress to do for rich experiences
 
I think the best point made by Michael Shermer had to be the one about an absence of patients reporting the images that were intentionally placed in a position that could only be viewed by a patient having an OBE in their room. I understand that probably not every patient that has an OBE (assuming that these are experiences that at some stage correlate with an "objective" reality) will probably be thinking, "I gotta look for and remember that picture!" but it is a valid point. It's a shame that no one has found (I believe) the woman who had an OBE and allegedly saw a tennis shoe sitting on a hospital ledge that she couldn't have possibly seen beforehand. That might be one white crow.

For me the second best point that Michael made was the one about the difficulty of language and understanding. It's not that understanding is impossible but it's really easy to make assumptions about what other people mean without being aware that we are doing so.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Even in normal day to day living it seems to me there are masses of things we see but don’t remember because they are not relevant to us at the time or aren’t striking. Evidential NDEs being reported and validated are quite rare so expecting someone to identify and remember a number (for example) placed in a particular position when undergoing an unexpected transcendent experience seems to me highly unlikely to provide many(if any) hits. I don’t have a better suggestion. People do seem to remember things unmatched bright socks on people attending to them though.

The point you made about one white crow is, imho, exactly right. It only needs to work once. But even if that happened I can hear some saying “yes but that’s only one example and it could have been coincidence, or guessed, or a medic or visitor mentioned it” yadder yadder..

Perhaps it’s the evidence we do have which is vital (of which there is a lot), not the evidence we don’t.
 
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