My answer to Alex

I have tried to post - unsuccesfully - in the "discuss the show" section of the forum. My apologies if this only relatively belongs here.

This is my answer to Alex's last question, as published on


This post is more a reflective piece and less of the usual information sharing on applied psychical research and consciousness studies – I hope my public will find it interesting nevertheless.

The train of thoughts I am going to share here originated from the latest of the remarkable series of Skeptiko podcast shows. If you don’t know about Skeptiko, you really should. Over a period of a few years, retired high-tech entrepreneur and science enthusiast Alex Tsakiris has put together over 240 well produced shows which amount to no less than an extraordinary journey of discovery. He has interviewed everybody who’s anybody in parapsychology and the broader psychical research, notably including near-death experiences, and many innovative thinkers in consciousness studies. He’s also had well and less well informed skeptics on the show, never failing to expose the ignorance, logical fallacies and – occasionally – outright intellectual dishonesty prevailing in that camp. Do yourself a favour and check out all the shows, available online at

At the end of the last show, Alex, as he frequently does, asked a question to his listeners – What would it take for you to change a belief, an idea or a position you’ve held for a long time? This question had me reflecting quite a bit on a point which is cardinal to my innovative approach to working with the bereaved and the dying. The crucial question for me is – Do I “believe” in life after life?

At the end of long cogitations, I came back to the answer I formed already some time ago. No. I don’t think I “believe” in the survival of human personality to bodily death. At least, not if we take “belief” to mean blind faith in something for which there is no (or little) evidence. A more fitting description for my own position comes from Swiss physicist André Pictet, who, after having thoroughly considered the evidence for survival, famously wrote “I am a compelled to believe by the inescapable logic of facts.”

Do conclusions based on the analysis of masses of empirical evidence (“facts”) amount to a belief? Perhaps, but they certainly do not amount to a faith. For this reason, in communicating with those of my patients who are interested in the subject, and with the public at large, I prefer to use the expression “rational belief”, meaning a belief based on rational thought, knowledge and critical examination of facts.

Now – and here Alex’s original question comes into play – Do I think I have a bias? More painful cogitations produced a perhaps unsurprising answer. Yes. I think I do have a bias. I find the idea of a “conscious universe” – one in which consciousness is primary and not only the product of the physical brain, and one in which consciousness survives the death of the physical body – infinitely more attractive, interesting than the “all that exists is matter” alternative.

And, again – Do I think that this bias, this preference of mine, affects my critical evaluation of the evidence? This is a particularly sensitive point, as it calls into question my own intellectual honesty. And the answer, to the best of my capacity to look inside myself, is no. Yes, I do like to find out that the evidence points to consciousness existing independently from the brain. But, no, I am not available to let this “liking” to interfere, and make me ignore evidence that goes against my preferred option.

And, as I observe myself in my on-going reading, studying, exploring, I realise that I am always keenly attentive to any piece of information which may be at odds with my rational belief in life after life. I haven’t found one yet, but I honestly think that my healthy skepticism is alive and well.

This, finally, is my answer to Alex Tsakiris’ original question. As much as I am “compelled to believe by the inescapable logic of facts”, I am absolutely ready and willing to be compelled to believe otherwise, if my critical consideration of the facts were to tell me so.

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That was a wonderful and concise summary of your viewpoint and I am grateful that you shared that with us, Dr. Parisetti. I find it interesting to compare this with my own experience. We generally agree on how we approach these things. Is it really "belief" if you're convinced by the evidence? And on the issue of life after life I have to ask myself the question, am I convinced by evidence, or by belief? I honestly don't know. I am psychic so this is not a trivial question for me. Empirical evidence doesn't convince me so much as it confirms what I already seem to know: that yes, there is life after death. Talk to any psychic person and you get much the same answer. There is a "knowing" that defies any empirical standards yet is convincing to anyone who experiences it. It is so convincing in fact, that once one experiences it, no amount of contrary information is persuasive. (It's because "knowing" has a success rate of 100%)

I've seen this over and over again in other people, and occasionally in myself. So, is this a form of evidence or not? Again, I don't know.