The continued possession of personality after the change called death. It is a fundamental doctrine of Spiritualism that Spiritualist phenomena demonstrate survival, and the investigation of that phenomena has been a major aspect of psychical research. The emergence of parapsychology represented, in part, a distinct reorientation of priorities away from survival research.
The basis of survival is the contention that mind can exist independently of the brain, that thought is not the result of changes in the brain, but that these changes (as William James suggested in his book Human Immortality, 1903) merely coincide with the flow of thought through it. The brain fulfills the role of an instrument of transmission. Thought transference and experiments in telepathy furnished the first scientific support of this contention.
The trance communications received through the medium-ship of Leonora Piper convinced many famous skeptical investigators that the communicators had survived the change of death. Even Eleanor Sidgwick admitted in her brilliant but extremely skeptical study of Piper's phenomena: "Veridical communications are received, some of which, there is good reason to believe, come from the dead, and therefore imply a genuine communicator in the background." (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. 28, December 1915, p. 204.)
The arguments for and against survival are mainly centered around the evidential value of such communications. The first and most powerful point of attack is made on the subconscious front. The communicating personality is said to be artificial, a masquerading secondary self, and that supernormal information lies occasionally within the bounds of acquisition of the subconscious mind.
It is also pointed out that many of the communications are erroneous, of a lying nature, uncharacteristic of the dead, and easily obtainable by fraudulent means.
Those who argue for survival deny the sufficiency of subconscious powers as an explanation for communications, pointing to the distinct personalities of the communicators, their greatly differing abilities to communicate, their recognition of old friends, their behavior, temper, memories, and ability to give information outside the mind of everybody present and perhaps of everybody living.
They also point out the inconsistency of the telepathic theory in that it gradually leads to the supposition of a cosmic mind that is tapped by the telepathist, forming thereby a more far-reaching and less justified theory than individual survival. As evidence against telepathy, the results of some cross-correspondences and book (and newspaper) tests are quoted.
Philosophic speculation has often supported the concept of survival. P. G. Tait and Balfour Stewart posit in their book, The Unseen Universe (1875), that the main realities of the universe are not in matter at all, but in the ether of space. Although the concept of the ether has since been refuted, the enigma of the relationship between matter and consciousness remains, and it is feasible that consciousness continues to survive the death and disintegrating changes of the physical body. This implies that consciousness is a superior system to matter.
According to Sir Oliver Lodge, "the marvel is that we are associated with matter at all … I used to say that death was an adventure to which we might look forward. So it is; but I believe that really and truly it is earth-life that is the adventure. It is this earth-life that has been the strange and exceptional thing. The wonder is that we ever succeeded in entering a matter body at all. Many fail." (Phantom Walls, 1929). In the same book he also considers the possibility of grades of survival, stating:
"Now survival only applies to things that really exist. If there is no individuality, then there is nothing to persist. Whether all human beings have sufficient personality to make their individual persistence likely is a question that may be argued. Whether some of the higher animals have acquired a kind of individuality, a character and wealth of affection which seem worthy of continued existence, may also be argued. There may be many grades of personality, and accordingly there may be many grades of survival."
The subjective experience of out-of-the-body travel or astral projection is often cited as presumptive evidence that the personality can exist independently of the body.
Baird, Alexander T. One Hundred Cases for Survival After Death. New York: Bernard Ackerman, 1944.
Beard, Paul. Survival of Death: For and Against. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1966.
Broad, C. D. Personal Identity and Survival. London: Society for Psychical Research, 1968.
Crookall, Robert. Case-Book of Astral Projection, 545-746. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1972.
Ducasse, C. J. A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life After Death. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1961.
Garrett, Eileen J., ed. Does Man Survive Death?: A Symposium. New York: Helix Press, 1957.
Hart, Hornell. The Enigma of Survival: The Case For and Against an After Life. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1959.
Jacobson, Nils Olof. Life Without Death?: On Parapsychology, Mysticism and the Question of Survival. New York: Delacorte Press, 1973. Reprint, London: Turnstone Books, 1974.
Myers, F. H. Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death. 2 vols. London: Longmans, Green, 1903. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.
Rogo, D. Scott. Welcoming Silence: A Study of Psychical Phenomena and Survival of Death. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1973.
Salter, W. H. Zoar; or, The Evidence of Psychical Research Concerning Survival. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1961.
Saltmarsh, H. F. Evidence of Personal Survival From Cross Correspondences. London: G. Bell, 1939.
Smith, Susy. Life is Forever: Evidence for Survival After Death. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1974.
624. Survival (See also Endurance.)
- Alive story of the survivors of plane crash in the Andes. [Am. Lit.: Alive ]
- Comanche horse; sole survivor of Little Big Horn massacre (1876). [Am. Hist.: Wallechinsky, 126]
- Crusoe, Robinson only survivor of shipwreck. [Br. Lit.: Robin-son Crusoe ]
- Deucalion survives flood that destroys human race. [Gk. Myth.: Howe, 80]
- Donner Party survivors of group of emigrants to California (1846–1847). [Am. Hist.: NCE, 783–784]
- Lot allowed by God to escape the conflagration of Sodom and Gomorrah. [O.T.: Genesis 13:1–12]
- Mellitias, St. of “Forty Martyrs,” the only one to survive icy ordeal. [Christian Hagiog.: Attwater, 133–134]
- Noah chosen by God to escape the deluge. [O.T.: Genesis 5–9]
- Pilgrim, Billy survives the fire-bombing of Dresden and is the only passenger to survive a domestic air-crash. [Am. Lit.: Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five ]
- Robinsons shipwrecked family learns to cope with nature on a desert island. [Children’s Lit.: Swiss Family Robinson ]
sur·viv·al / sərˈvīvəl/ • n. the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances: the animal's chances of survival were pretty low fig. he was fighting for his political survival. ∎ an object or practice that has continued to exist from an earlier time: his shorts were a survival from his army days. PHRASES: survival of the fittest Biol. the continued existence of organisms that are best adapted to their environment, with the extinction of others, as a concept in the Darwinian theory of evolution. Compare with natural selection.