How did Thomas Alva Edison really feel about death and the afterlife? What happens when modern-day paranormal crusaders such as Christopher Moon try to use famous names like Edison for a platform to gain credibility and notoriety?
As most of us do, Thomas Edison said a lot of things. Unlike most of us, however, he flip-flopped consistently on his beliefs. Having the brain of an inventor means that you have to think outside the box as a way of life. It seemed that his mind was always in over-drive and he would sometimes have his mouth engaged while his mind was wandering.
In his youth, Edison did not believe in God, the soul, or an afterlife. At that time Edison liked to call nature the “Supreme Intelligence,” indifferent and merciless toward humanity. Edward Marshall interviewed him for the New York Times (October 2, 1910). “There is no more reason to believe that any human brain will be immortal,” Edison declared, “than there is to think that one of my phonograph cylinders will be immortal… No, the brain is a piece of meat mechanism – nothing more than a wonderful meat mechanism.”
Then, ten years later, Edison expressed just how much his views had changed in Scientific American, October 30, 1920.
“If our personality survives, then it is strictly logical and scientific to assume that it retains memory, intellect, and other faculties and knowledge that we acquire on this earth. Therefore, if personality exists after what we call death, it’s reasonable to conclude that those who leave this earth would like to communicate with those they have left here. …I am inclined to believe that our personality hereafter will be able to affect matter. If this reasoning be correct, then, if we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected, or moved, or manipulated… by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something.
Certain of the methods now in use are so crude, so childish, so unscientific, that it is amazing how so many rational human beings can take any stock in them. If we ever do succeed in establishing communication with personalities which have left this present life, it certainly won’t be through any of the childish contraptions which seem so silly to the scientist.”
(At this point I must interject that the childish contraptions that are being used today, such as Chris Moon’s Telephone to the dead and Mark Macy’s Polaroid camera, seem very silly to the scientist in me…) Of course, the spiritual community (including Christians) now welcomed Edison into their fold. What was a better endorsement for belief of the afterlife than a converted famous non-believer? Now the once hated Edison became a poster child. But, as they say, nothing lasts forever… especially Edison’s opinions.
Later in his life, Edison conjectured that the human mind was composed of billions of infinitesimal particles that are responsible for intelligence and memory. He thought they came from outer space, bringing wisdom from other inhabited planets. After we die, they may disperse, or they may swarm like bees and enter other human skulls, he said. Edison liked to call his particles “little people.” Occasionally, they would get into conflict with one another. Here is an excerpt from his diary:
“They fight out their differences, and then the stronger group takes charge. If the minority is willing to be disciplined and to conform there is harmony. But minorities sometimes say: ‘To hell with this place; let’s get out of it.’ They refuse to do their appointed work in the man’s body, he sickens and dies, and the minority gets out, as does too, of course, the majority. They are all set free to seek new experience somewhere else.”
I wonder why these later views aren’t as important to those trying to use Edison’s fame to bolster their own Edison was a genius, right? If he abandoned one opinion for another, it must have been because he was on to something, right? Right? Hello?
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