Stephen Berkley, Battling Grief With After Death Communication |539|


Stephen Berkley’s new film explores the science of healing grief through after death communication.



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[00:00:00] Alex Tsakiris: On this episode of skeptiko… Grief. And a movie about how some very clever scientists, including some frontier scientists that you may have heard on this show before. I have found a way to combat it.

[00:00:16] Clip: That whole year after I found out what happened was just a blur. I don’t remember it. I think maybe subconsciously I suppressed it because I didn’t know how to deal with it, or I didn’t want to accept what happened, but she was a mess.

[00:00:33] Alex Tsakiris: the movie is totaled living with ghosts. And in a minute, you’ll hear my interview with the movies, creators, Steven Berkley. It’s a movie about science consciousness science as well as being a movie about grief and a movie about how families. Can become entangled in this battle with grief. Including Steven’s own family here’s a clip. And at the end of it, you’ll hear his one and only very brief appearance in the film where he’s talking to his mom and he’s very concerned because his mom is considering this very wacky after death communication thing.

[00:01:09] Clip: We’re used to getting gutter, we’re being sold, all kinds of stuff to make us better, but nothing prepared. My mom, if you’re living alone, having conversations with ghosts, that’s my business too. People

[00:01:29] Alex Tsakiris: family stuff is tough. We all get that. Here’s a clip from my upcoming interview where Steven describes how the whole thing got started.

[00:01:38] Stephen Berkley: what happened was my dad died. My dad. It was about 10 years ago. My father passed and my mom pretty much, she felt. We did everything we could, we , got her into a support group, grief counselor got her own therapist and nothing really did the trick. Uh, nothing was really helping her get through it at all. Fortunately, she had a neighbor, , who’s a very sweet woman, came over and said, uh, you know, Irene, I been doing this thing.

We haven’t talked about this much, but I correspond with my husband, my late husband. I write to him every night, it really helps. And he writes back and my mother was like, wow. You know, and my brothers were actually pretty upset by this too, because who is this cookie woman that’s came over and is now a costing our mother with this offer.

[00:02:34] Alex Tsakiris: now as, you’re about to hear in this interview and what you’ll see when you watch this movie. Is that this automatic writing thing they’re talking about. Turns out to be just one way of accessing this . After death communication process, that we don’t fully understand, but , some very good scientists like Dr. Jan Holden from the university of north Texas. Can measure. .

[00:02:56] Stephen Berkley: The important thing is what Jan did was she said, okay, let’s compare out. Botkin is the one who made the discovery that this EMDR therapy that was used for the Vietnam vets when he was working in Chicago bed hospital, , that could work for grief because of it by accident. He discovered that one of this, one of his clients or patients where he was administering this EMDR therapy, they had an, an ADC after-death communication. He’s the one that discovered it with Jan. Holden did, was he, she said, okay, let’s compare, let’s compare this IADC therapy to traditional grief counseling and see what works better. It wasn’t really a fair contest actually, because nobody gets better from grief counseling. It turns out it just doesn’t work. But with this IDC therapy the success rate is close to around 70, 80% that’s mindblowing compared to any therapy. That’s ridiculous.

[00:03:53] Alex Tsakiris: . So as you might suspect from that last little clip, this interview takes us down some interesting paths in terms of y the science we have is married to therapy . That is proven not to work,

but the main story really is. Uh, therapy that does work and the implications for it in terms of helping people who are suffering grief. And. The larger implications in terms of what that means about our place. Within the consciousness universe, the extended consciousness. The greater reality that we are here with in. This is a great movie in so many ways. I really hope you find a way to watch it. Here’s my interview with Steven Berkley.

Welcome to skeptical where we explore controversial science and spirituality with leading researchers, thinkers and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Securus. And today we welcome Stephen Berkley to skeptical. Stephen is a very talented filmmaker. He has an extraordinary new film out. , it’s already won multiple awards.

As you can see if you’re looking at the screen, it’s destined to win many more. It’s titled living with ghosts. And the subtitle science weighs in on the healing power of after death communication. Steven, congratulations on your new film. Welcome. Welcome to skeptical. Thanks for joining.

[00:05:25] Stephen Berkley: Thank you, Alex.

Good to be here.

[00:05:27] Alex Tsakiris: Tell us about yourself. I mean, this project, if anyone watches the film, it’s very, very well done. It’s top top-notch filmmaking, who are you to make such a film? And then the amount of effort. I mean, this is years in the making. , so tell us about the filmmaking part of this, about yourself and how you, how you do this, how you sustain this effort for as long as you did.

[00:05:54] Stephen Berkley: I’m glad you asked me that question, Alex, because I am not a veteran filming. Uh, this is my first feature film. As a matter of fact, my co-writer co-producer is Christopher seaward. Who’s better known for a Fahrenheit, nine 11 and sicko. And he’s the award-winning filmmaker. I’m just a guy to his left. So it’s my idea.

It’s my concept. It’s my family. That’s in the film, but he’s really the craftsmen. So I really want to give him credit right out the door.

[00:06:25] Alex Tsakiris: That’s great. So tell us about your personal involvement in this topic. How do you do that?

[00:06:32] Stephen Berkley: , what happened was my dad died. My dad. It was about 10 years ago. My father passed and my mom pretty much, she felt. Understandably. So she had been by his side for 60 years and my brothers and I, we congregated in Florida where she lived.

We did everything we could, we brought her, got her into a support group, grief counselor got her own therapist and nothing really did the trick. Uh, nothing was really helping her get through it at all. Fortunately, she had a neighbor, uh, who’s a very sweet woman, came over and said, uh, you know, Irene, I been doing this thing.

We haven’t talked about this much, but I correspond with my husband, my late husband. I write to him every night, it really helps. And he writes back and my mother was like, wow. You know, and my brothers were actually pretty upset by this too, because who is this cookie woman that’s came over and is now a costing our mother with this offer.

It was a, a kind of a radical suggestion for all of us. And my mother was not in a place where she could digest that at all, but I was kind of interested and I was, I followed her back over to her house and I just had a conversation with her and she showed me a stack of yellow legal pads, where she is basically her correspondence with her husband over 12 years, her dead husband for 12 years.

And I was like, okay, this is really cooky, but I’m kind of digging it. You know, I just enjoyed talking to this woman. She was very, I was looking for like, uh, cracks to see like, what was going on is she is she’s schizophrenic. Like what’s her story, but just in conversation, she was just trying to be just a very charming, nice woman, very grounded, very free.

And was not trying to sell me anything. It was just, this is just something that she did. And she was sharing it with my mother in the hopes that maybe my mother would have a better time getting through to the other side. Right.

So that that’s how it all started.

[00:08:42] Alex Tsakiris: Let’s frame that up in terms of the movie, because this is kind of how the movie plays out. So it’s kind of a good backstory. I still can’t quite wrap my head around your down, talking to your mom in Boca, Raton, Florida. And it’s like, gosh, you know, there’s so many different layers of this grief thing that people who’ve been through it, you know, it’s like a horrible thing.

Once you’ve been through it and experienced it, then you can relate to it and people who haven’t can’t, but, you know, as a family, your grieving for your mom’s grieving and all that stuff, You know, you gotta admit Steven. So you’re prompted to go to the neighbor’s house and look at the legal pads. And then that sends you on a seven year project cross crossing the country interviews with some of the top leading researchers in after death communication, researchers in consciousness.

Just extraordinary list of kind of who’s who in this field. I mean that I that’s what either destiny or it’s D kind of dogged determination that you just can’t imagine. I,

[00:09:51] Stephen Berkley: I wasn’t really interested in the consciousness part of it at that time. I just felt here’s this, my mother who’s really having a tough time and her friend and bridge partner Ethel, who is having this conversation, ongoing conversation with her husband, her late husband.

And I just thought it was. I thought it was cute that these two women, this odd couple are having two very different experiences in grief. And I also thought Ethel story, the one who was doing the automatic writing was just romantic. I wasn’t really paying so much attention to what she was doing or the verisimilitude of what she was doing.

I just thought it was adorable and that’s really how it started. And so I started interviewing other widows in my mother’s community. First, they interviewed my mother. She was my first interview. Then I interviewed Ethel and then there was like four or five other widows in their orbit. There was no widows were no widowers because the women were outliving the men by about eight or nine years.

So in these conversations with these other widows, I also found that. They were all having some kind of relationship with their deceased husband. It wasn’t as overt, typically as Ethel’s experience, they weren’t automatic writing, but they were doing something to honor the memory of their husbands. And some of them were engaging a little bit here and there with the unseen one was going practicing Kabbalah for instance.

And she claimed that she could smell her husband in the house. He used to smoke cigars and she says that she smells the car smoke. And maybe that was his way of saying hello, but there’s nobody else that smoke cigars in the house. Now she, but she would get that sense. And another one actually saw her late husband and she actually made it into the film, but they were having these experiences.

And that’s when I started doing a little bit of research and found out that these kinds of experiences are not uncommon.

[00:11:54] Alex Tsakiris: Well, they’re beyond not uncommon as you flash up on the screen. At one point during the interview studies that are done of people who are experiencing the loss of a loved one, who’s been in their life for a long time, like 80% of them experience after death communication.

So the real irony is that, you know, this is completely denied not only by science, which we can kind of go into, but by the healing community, you know, the people that are supposed to be charged with exactly this job of helping people through grief, helping people through trauma. So how they are unaware of this science, which you reveal so beautifully in the, in the film and you.

unfurl in the film in just a terrific way. I think the films treatment of skeptics is just the best I’ve seen in almost any film of this kind or related paranormal consciousness stuff than I can remember. And that’s because you let the skeptics talk to people and then just reveal how completely idiotic they are.

I mean, you see people, you, you see these therapists just denied. The experience of an individual right before their face, and then they’re calm about it and they go, well, you just don’t know what you’re talking about. Quite politely. You just don’t know what you’re talking about. Here’s I just pulled up, you know, Roger , Z, Samuel, who is featured in the film and just does a marvelous job of playing the role of the idiotic psychologist, psychiatrist.

He’s a forensic psychologist, just a complete joke in terms of, he just looks, he looks silly and you do that in a way that allows these folks to. Just say it in their own words. And then you contrast that with someone like Dr. Jan Holden from the university of north Texas, who’s been on the show a couple of times, fantastic researcher, very competent person who just sums it all up just by with this kind of rye little grin and goes, well, they just don’t know the research.

They’re not scientists. They haven’t stayed up on the art. They just don’t know what they’re talking about, . But I love the way you let the skeptics talk to real people. Because lot of times when skeptics are talking to scientists somebody like Jeffrey Kripal, who’s featured in the film, then there’s like this automatic antagonistic kind of thing.

But when they’re talking to real people, they look just especially ridiculous. Do you have any, any thoughts on that or did you see that as it was kind of unfolding in the film?

[00:14:45] Stephen Berkley: Well, first, well, thank you, by the way, for all those compliments that I appreciate. , the psychiatrist and the film writer, Samuel was just being a psychiatrist.

I don’t want to call him idiotic. Uh, he was doing, he, that was his training. His training was to say, okay, I’m going to ask you if you were doing crack. And that’s what led you to this experience you’re having. So I don’t want to call him an idiot. I also want to challenge something that I’ve heard you do on other shows, which is these people don’t actually believe what they’re saying, what they do.

I’m talking about the debunkers right now. Like you’ll, you’ll talk about the debunkers and you can’t, you don’t believe that they actually believe what they’re saying. They are cynical in the truest sense and that they are just interested in their own maintaining their own status quo, whatever that is.

I will, I will say that if I was going to challenge you, I would say that they’re not there. Just want to be comfortable. People in general want to be comfortable with what they believe. And they want to be comfortable, what they proport and, uh, the, the skeptics in the film, there’s a couple of the bunkers.

I just flashed on the screen every now and again, to remind people like who these debunkers are and what they’re saying. , I believe they believe this is just my personal opinion. I believe they believe what they’re saying. I believe that they believe in materialism and they’re just, and yes, they probably are protecting their profession or their industry or the way they are their worldview.

But that’s, and that’s what most of us do. Right? I mean, look at all the people who are denying that their spouse is cheating on them. They can’t even, they can’t even go there. They know it on some subconscious level, but they can’t bring themselves. To really look at it closely. It’s just too disruptive.

They got a kid, they got work to go to. They can’t think about that. And I think a lot of these debunkers, or even this psychiatrist, they can think about the possibility of this other realm.

[00:16:53] Alex Tsakiris: well, uh, of course they can and you’re just letting them off the hook for no good reason. I mean, Roger, Samuel M D has a responsibility. His responsibility is to know his science, to know the current artwork. I mean, , if he was, , working with someone who was gay and he was completely tied to.

The DSM three sat or DSM four, I forget before they changed it, that you have a psychological disorder and that you’re, you know, we would be up in arms. We would go, oh my God, how can he be so completely out of sync with the current science, the current state of his field yet? Why do you want to make apologies for the guy who just did what?

Because he’s stuck in a worldview we’re supposed to feel sorry for him. I don’t feel sorry for him , at all. I feel sorry for his patients who have to endure his nonsense, , his lack of deep thinking in his lack of, of really scholarship and, and the professionalism about knowing, you know, what to do.

[00:17:59] Stephen Berkley: There’s I agree, Alice, I agree that these professionals, especially medical health professionals need to be up on the science. No question. I was just really talking about, I wanted it to contrast something you said in other shows about the debunkers specifically, and they’re going around saying this doesn’t exist.

And you’re you were saying that, well, they don’t put, they can’t believe that they can’t be faced with this information and still say that. I say they can believe it because they want to believe it. Like most of us, we want to believe what makes us feel comfortable.

[00:18:30] Alex Tsakiris: Well, I don’t know exactly what you’re referring to in the other shows, but I think we have to make a distinction there and I wasn’t going to get into this cause it’s my usual kind of skeptical thing that kind of goes a little bit off target, especially with your film, but it’s like, yeah, of course there’s the useful idiots who follow the party line and are just propagating nonsense and they believe it.

That doesn’t matter. The larger question I think that we currently have to especially ask in this situation is, and I think your film comes close to asking it in some ways maybe that you’re not even totally aware of is, is the systematic denial. Of this science, which is at this point, overwhelming, like the science on consciousness is overwhelming.

The, the science on after death communication is overwhelming. Can we really chalk up the entire denial of that across the board, across all the skeptics as just being, well, gosh, darn it. You know, they’re just kind of stuck in their dogma. When, in particular, again, as your film points out, they have such a vested interest.

If like the way you brought it up in the film, which was even clearer is I think it’s Jeff Kripal. When you talk about religion and you talk about why would religion possibly give an inch to the idea of after-death communication? Because when they do they’ve seeded country, And what they want to do is control.

They want to be the intermediary of your transcendent experiences, all your ex, your spiritual experience. They want to be the intermediary of the most important experience you can have on in life sciences in the same game, man. And, and you talk about it in the film. Science cannot say, well, gee, you know, we really got our hands around everything.

Oh, except the thing that’s most important to you. Yeah. We really don’t got that at all. So that’s where I’m coming from on that. Of course, there’s the useful idiot skeptic into bunker, but that’s not really the one we care about we care about. Is there someone behind there behind the curtain that is directing things in a certain way?

Well, there always is someone behind the curtain. There’s always a social engineering aspect of this. That’s always at play. The question is, do we know who they are? And we do. We know what they’re doing.

[00:20:55] Stephen Berkley: Yeah. And more. I kind of missed a step when I was talking about my journey here, which would’ve led right into your point, which was this, , I ended up going to a couple of sessions.

My mother’s like therapy or grief counseling sessions. I went with her and I filmed because I was just starting to figure out like what the movie was about at that point. I just want to start following people around. And luckily my mother and my mother’s friends, let me follow them around with a camera crew of 10 people.

So I finally, my mother around there, her through her grief counselor, and she’s having a conversation and she tells me this did not make it into the film. Unfortunately had to be cut for timing, but she tells my grief, her grief counselor, that her neighbor has kind of convinced her that maybe she should try looking for my father in the afterlife.

Maybe she should, because my, because she was a little bit envious of her friend’s experience, her friend was having a real satisfying, satisfactory relationship. And my mother wanted that. And the grief counselor was very dismissive and discouraging. She was empathetic, but she said something along the lines of, well that’s okay, Irene for now, but that’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

You, you don’t want that to be the way to handle bereavement. And that made me furious. My mother was actually starting to get better. She was actually starting to feel like maybe there was something ahead that lied ahead. That would somehow close this huge gap that was now in her life. And this grief counselor was basically disabusing my mother of this, this, okay.

Let’s call it a placebo effect if you will.


Why, why, why, why take that away from her? Even if it is just a placebo. She believes that may be by father is still in the house with her. There was a light, by the way, I didn’t mention this. There was a light blinking in my house, my old house I was, I grew up in and it was blinking.

There was a light blinking in every room. And the neighbor convinced my mother that this is my father saying hello. And my mother was starting to have these conversations with the blinking light and that was making her feel. But this is the only thing that was making her feel better. So for this grief counselor to say, that’s not the way, the way to handle that.

I didn’t do the research yet. I was going to find out that 50 years ago, a guy named Dewey Reese, a physician discovered that half the population, whereas having these experiences and feeling better from it. I didn’t find that yet. I just knew that my mother. Was feeling better. And that was the only thing that was important to me.

And how dare this grief counselor say no, don’t handle it that way I read. That’s not the way to do it. I know better.

[00:23:50] Alex Tsakiris: You know, I think that actually did make it in the film. Isn’t that? Uh, Beth Greenstein, isn’t she the one who is talking to your mom and she, you know, you, you feel that’s where I guess I’d switch over on your side.

I do feel for, , People like Beth, even though they’re ignorant of the science. And even though they’re giving bad advice, they’re doing what they think their job is to kind of help these people through the day. And it’s kind of the nature of counseling that they’re so intertwined with their own beliefs and values, you know?

So I hold the scientist to a different standard because they hold themselves to a different standard. But yeah, it is really troubling. You want to jump right into the film and grab her little neck and say, how could you be so confident in just completely denying someone’s experience? I mean, you wouldn’t deny anyone else’s experience.

Why are you so immediately kind of triggered to deny this


[00:24:50] Stephen Berkley: So that conversation, you, you saw a different conversation that made it into the film, this particular conversation I’m talking about did not. But right after that conversation, I started doing some research. It did not take any long at all.

To uncover. I mean, I’m not a professor, right? I’m not a psychologist. I just had to do a couple of typing, a couple of key words in Google. And I found that out about this physician in the UK in 1971, did this research in Wales where he just asked one simple question to a population of nearly 300 widows and widowers.

And the question was what has helped, what has helped you most getting through your grief? And the answer was his, he was shocked by this, but the answer was getting a visit from my deceased spouse. That that was the game changer for me. So there’s been like nine studies between 1958 and 1998. And Jan Holden gave me this research by the way.

And one of her grad students compiled some numbers and figured those nine studies found that at least. 40, I think at least 47% on the low end and as much as 90% on the high end of widows and widowers have had some kind of contact like I’m describing.

[00:26:11] Alex Tsakiris: So one of the topics you have to navigate through the film and it’s already come up a couple of times in this conversation is effectively dealing with grief in terms of feeling better versus. The underlying extended consciousness science, is the way I would say it. And that means, are you really talking with the deceased? What does that mean? What happens to us after we die? How long do you do it? Is there some kind of mechanism for doing it? Can you do this EFT tapping on the hands and does that magically transport you into the extended realm?

All those kind of questions. So how does the film wrestle with that in how do you wrestle with that yourself? Stephen, having gone through this on such a personal level, is it just about feeling better or is it about somehow having a deeper understanding of what this consciousness thing is?

[00:27:09] Stephen Berkley: That’s a great question.

The answer for me is different than the answer. I think for my subjects in the film, , I like starting out with what Alan Botkin says, when people say, Hey, is this, is this a real thing that’s happening? Are these people just imagining it? And that’s, what’s making them feel better. And I decided to take a page out of his book.

I think this is a great answer to that question. The answer is it doesn’t matter. This therapy that’s featured in the film is about healing. Alan Botkin, he’ll say something along the lines of, I don’t want to get mired in the debate of whether or not our personality has survived death. That’s for the that’s for the, uh, the academics.

I’m not interested in that. I just want, I’m a psychologist. I want to help people heal. So as a filmmaker, I have an opinion. And I think anybody who sees the film, you could pretty much see the way I’m leaning, but I like at least a sensibly coming across objective and say, okay, this is how here’s some information.

Here’s how these people feel. And here are these people’s opinions. You know, draw your own conclusion. That just feels better to me to kind of like straddle that line.

Well, I think the film does a terrific job of that. And as a matter of fact, it makes it more powerful. It makes it more compelling because you do hold that line.

And there’s this story arc tell people about Karen and tell people about the transformation that she goes through because you guys are super skilled. I can’t even wrap my head around this being your first film, but because it’s so, so well done. And the story is incredible for a documentary. There’s a storyline here that is just really compelling and it is centered around this woman named Karen, tell us the story.

Okay, thank you. CA Karen is the daughter-in-law of my mother’s bridge partner and friend Ethel. I remember Ethel is the one that does the automatic writing. Karen, is her a strange daughter-in-law they’re not on good terms and they’re not on good terms because of the automatic writing.

[00:29:20] Alex Tsakiris: , you might want to just touch on that a little bit, because become quite, a divisive, just incredibly painful thing in their current family life.

[00:29:30] Stephen Berkley: So what happened was, by the way, I found Karen through Ethel’s book, Ethel wrote a book about her experience called, um, messages for not message from heaven, thoughts from heaven, but it’s really just a transcript. It’s a transcript of her day, her date. With her husband after they reunited for the first time after 12 years or so.

So, um, so, so Karen, uh, I met Karen and her two daughters. I just wanted to have just an interview. That’s the only thing I was asking for. Cause I asked Ethel when I was interviewing her, if I should interview Karen as well. Cause she’s in the book and my heart instantly goes out to Karen and her children because they lost the patriarch of the family.

Kevin, her husband was in his early forties when he died of a massive heart attack on the racquetball court. So here’s this young family and it was hard not to, not to think about them throughout at those books. So I, I happened to live fairly close to where Karen lives in Connecticut. So I had an interview with them and her and her children were very, um, very good interviews.

They just were. Very grounded and they just very sensible, but there was obviously, there was some tension with the grandmother Ethel

[00:30:50] Alex Tsakiris: there’s this huge tension. These, you know, you just, what the film does. And in a way that’s completely unique because it has this scientific angle and this after death communication angle and this spiritual angle, but you get this very intimate look at how grief affects an entire family.

And I’ve got to say one of the things that was rewarding for me is I identified with Karen and really negative way early on in the. I was like, . . You’re totally screwing over these kids in that. They’re not allowed to grieve.

They’re not allowed to heal. You’re blocking that. And then you’re further blocking the relationship with their grandmother. You’re just directly saying that saying, no, we can’t go visit grandma because she has, does automatic writing with the deceased and she can’t come visit us. Now the wonderful thing about the film is the story arc is when you see. Karen’s healing in this film. It’s a wonderful thing.

It’s uplifting spiritually. I think.

[00:31:58] Stephen Berkley: Yeah. Uh, I would say that I don’t want to, I don’t want to get too, too far in that.

[00:32:03] Alex Tsakiris: No, no, no, you don’t. You don’t have, that’s my comment. That’s as a viewer, I wouldn’t expect you to, to have anything to say. She’s a, she’s an awesome person, you know, and for her to, for her to expose herself so openly in the film is, is a gift, a gift to everyone.

So the fact that that’s about me, I’m going through that. Those are my kind of thing. So that doesn’t have anything to do with this, this woman and our kids. They’re awesome. But I think we got to talk about this stuff too, because otherwise it all just becomes this kind of trope about grief and oh, you know, we have to receive, you know, a fine whatever you’re going through.

Other people are going through different stuff. Everyone’s on their own thing. No, no judgment, but just what are we dealing with here?

[00:32:50] Stephen Berkley: You know, and I tell you that Karen did not want to do the film. She was not interested. She was willing to do an interview. And she told me that off-camera she told me that she was willing to do it only because she wanted to show her children that it’s okay to step outside your comfort zone every once in a while.

, and now I would just get back to your question. I kinda lost it did give it to me.

[00:33:10] Alex Tsakiris: Well, I think what we were chatting about was the technology of after death communication.

And I would include in that technology, and you might want to speak to this, the therapy, they’ve done at university of north, Texas, Jan Holden, and her colleagues, which, you know, what I want to know is Jen Olin. She has done extraordinary work in this field for a long period of time.

And when I say this field, it’s not just in after death communication, but in near death experience, research in consciousness, research in Paris, psychology research, Jan is top notch and it’s done unbelievable work in this field, but what they did, which is really interesting, and you might want to speak to it.

Is, they took a therapy that has been controversial, but you just can’t deny that it works. And that is this tapping thing that now a lot of people have heard about where like soldiers will come back with PTSD and there as a way of overcoming or dealing with the peat PTSD, they re-experience the memories while a therapist does this.

Tapping is all you can say, that’s what it is. This bilateral stimulation on their hands while they’re recalling things. And it allows them to access these memories and process these memories in a different way. We don’t know if any of that’s true. We just know that they experience a healing from their PTSD.

The genius part for Jan and her group is to say, well, gee, if it works for that trauma, maybe it can work for these people who are experiencing chronic grief grief. That just goes on and on and on for years and is extremely debilitating for these people.

[00:35:03] Stephen Berkley: . The important thing is what Jan did was she said, okay, let’s compare out.

Botkin is the one who made the discovery that this EMDR therapy that was used for the Vietnam vets when he was working in Chicago bed hospital, , that could work for grief because of it by accident. He discovered that one of this, one of his clients or patients where he was administering this EMDR therapy, they had an, an ADC after-death communication.

So. And he, he just modified it. Just, I, it was just incidental. He modified the EMDR just enough for this person to have an accurate death communication. And then he wrote a book called induced after-death communication therapy. And that’s what led to where we are now. But he’s the one that discovered it with Jan.

Holden did, was he, she said, okay, let’s compare, let’s compare this IADC therapy to traditional traditional grief counseling and see what works better. It wasn’t really a fair contest actually, because nobody gets better from grief counseling. It turns out it just doesn’t work. But with this IDC therapy and Jan has the numbers she’s published, she’s going to be publishing this article.

I believe it’s already published in a peer review journal, but it’s not out yet. So she can’t really discuss the numbers exactly. But it’s safe to say that the, the, the success rate with IADC therapy. Where you’re basically re-introducing the deceased back into the survivor’s life. The success rate is close to around 70, 80% that’s mindblowing compared to any therapy.

That’s ridiculous. So it’s very successful therapy. And what I’m hoping this movie will do basically is basically, is just introduced people to the idea that not only this therapy, but any therapy that has to do with the continuing bonds theory, which Julia buy-sell talks about a lot in your show, the continuing bonds theory of getting through bereavement.

[00:37:08] Alex Tsakiris: So talk about continuing bonds and talk about the paradigm shift that that represents in terms of how psychology has handled grief through the, I don’t want to say it through the ages, but for the last 50, 7500 years,


[00:37:26] Stephen Berkley: let me go back a little bit further. Let’s go back to the civil war. When Satia at 620,000 people, Americans lost their lives, right? A brother, a father, a son gone, right? Almost every family in the country has lost a male during those times.

And it was almost necessary for people to get involved in spiritualism. I think half the country was doing it. Uh, Mary Todd and the Lincoln white house was conducting seances. So it was very much in Vogue because people kind of felt like I had no choice. Uh, then I think around the turn of the century, psychology became the thing.

Right. And. There was psychology said, well, we’re going to be the authority on human thought from now on. And spiritual ism doesn’t really fit into that. So there was a kind of suppression going on and I think David Hufford said it best in my interviews. I pulled up his quote. When I was talking to him, he said something about this product here.

He said, suppression of the prevalence of these kinds of experiences, which he’s talking about spirit experiences. So a suppression of the prevalence of these kinds of experiences is a necessary step towards marginalizing them. Um, which is true, which is breath. Basically. What’s happened from the turn of the century.

I’m talking about turn to the 20th century until now.

[00:38:54] Alex Tsakiris: , again, I feel like you did a really good job of this in the film, in that pointing out that this is a misstep, this is an incorrect hypothesis. And the hypothesis is that the best way for people to overcome grief is to distance themselves from the memories, from the connections, from the bonds they have with the deceased that turns out to be, as you mentioned, Through the research that we have, like Dr.

Julie and many others is that’s completely wrong. And what you need to do is the opposite of that. Now we can get back to whose responsibility it is. Wouldn’t we all be a lot better off if science, particularly in this case, psychology and psychiatry could own up to their mistake and say, oh, sorry, which we could all forgive because things change, but they don’t, they continue down trying to prop that up.

So the continuing bonds theory is. From a cross cultural and cross time point. It’s just so smack you in the head, obvious that it’s almost like drives me nuts, like go in the park that we’re determined. We’re talking about currently. I mean, if you don’t think this is some kind of systematic effort to separate you from your divine nature, from your expanded extended stealth.

Well, then you’re just not paying attention because what they’ve done here is. You look across culture cross time, you know, you have a shrine in your house for the, for the deceased, right? You have a picture of your father, your grandfather, your grandmother, you may be even go over and you look at it. I have such an altar in my house.

Most that I was grazed Greek, the Greek Orthodox. I’m not religious anymore, but that’s a good idea. You go over to a, someone who’s raised in a, an Eastern Chinese Japanese, of course, there’s you know that, so this is Tibetan. I mean, of course this is how it’s always done. So the fact that we’ve kind of thought that, you know, this completely, we should go completely the opposite way and remove any bonds.

Are we, or should we now act like, oh, mush, we’re surprised. You know what? That doesn’t seem to work at all. Gosh, darn it.

[00:41:10] Stephen Berkley: I talked to Julia by shell about this topic. I met her through your show, by the way. Thank you. , We were talking about how, and this is years ago, this happened, this conversation happened, but in the continuing bonds, they talk a little bit about Freud and Freud had this idea that he put into this, I guess, a paper called mourning and melancholia, where we’re supposed to sever ties with a deceased.

That’s actually not what he said. That’s a misreading of what Freud said, but that’s in a way irrelevant. The fact is that people came away from that paper thinking, okay, Freud, the big honcho says, okay, we’re not supposed to think about our deceased. We have to just move on, forget them. And what continuing bonds did would that research did led by a man named, uh, professor professor or a researcher of some kind, then his class and his colleagues found that our nervous systems simply work better when we maintain some kind of a bond with the deceased.

It doesn’t have to be communication with them, but we have to take art, our loved ones with them. It’s necessary. And one of the IDC therapists that’s in the film, uh, Graham maxi who’s Karen’s therapist in the film, he talked a little bit off camera. He talked a little bit about toy story two. Did you see that movie, Alex?

There’s a part where one of the dolls, I think it’s the cowboy toy is put into a recycling bin. The child was done with the toy, and it’s one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the film because I, I guess Graham likes to use this example because we’re not supposed to do that with people are not supposed to just put them in a box and say, okay, they’re there.

Now. It’s time for me to kind of move on with my life. We’re not built like that. We’re social, social creatures and our loved ones meet a lot to us. We’re not supposed to just plant them and say, bye bye. We have to take them with us for our own mental health, for our sanity. We have to take them with us in some regards.

It doesn’t matter how you’re doing it to each his own, but do it take them.

[00:43:17] Alex Tsakiris: I hear ya. And that’s awesome. And again, well done and well done in the film where you show different cultures who just are looking through photo albums of their loved ones. I think that what your film kind of helps us do again, is understand the grief process in maybe a way that some of us don’t, because that would seem to be a very ordinary thing for most of us that, oh, you know, let’s remember grandpa, oh, get down the pictures and we can actually laugh a little bit and cry a little bit.

And re-experience some wonderful memories, but as your film points out, People who are suffering chronic grief. A lot of times they’re not able to do that. So maybe share with people a little bit about what you learned both through your personal experience in your family, but also as working with these clinicians about how devastating grief can really be for people.

[00:44:12] Stephen Berkley: Yeah. Thank you Alex. There, is there something I learned that was surprising, but it makes sense that grief and of itself is a kind of trauma very often, especially I’m talking about the kind of sudden death or abrupt death that feels like a trauma. And that trauma gets infused with the morning and you have something new, you have something that’s tantamount to a disorder and something called complicated grief, which I believe is suffered by about 20 to 30% of all.

Especially with co like, think about COVID and how many people lost someone suddenly in the last few years, even if it wasn’t like an accident, like it wasn’t instant, they sometimes would lose their husband or child or grandparent within days of them contracting this thing. So that’s pretty abrupt and that’s traumatizing to a family member very often that sudden loss, the sudden of us a sudden this other, it is traumatizing to a level that you develop these kinds of disorders I’m talking about and needs some kind of intervention in order to get through it.

So I kind of spent a lot of time on IADC therapy to get through it. Of course there were other ways to get through it. Doesn’t have to be IADC, but you definitely in certain situations. It’s necessary. And there’s one thing that grand Maxie said in the film that is one of my favorite quotes. He said that there’s this very odd thing that people say, it’s, everybody gets through grief in their own way.

But does that mean that we shouldn’t try to find something that works for the majority of people and he was talking about IADC, but it could be something else in five years, it might be something completely different that helps people get through it. The fact is that, yeah. Yes, it’s true that people get through their own way, but there is something that can work for most people.

And it seems that the continuing bonds thing will work for most people and getting through some of these diff more difficult to solve.

[00:46:21] Alex Tsakiris: I think we should talk just for a minute about this IADC because you throw it in an acronym and then you kind of wrap a little science around it and you say, it’s going to come out in a peer review paper, which is good. It’s playing the game in a way that I think we have to play the science game.

We are, we are all benefited from a good peer review process from good science and all the rest of that. So I’m down with that for to a certain extent, but it also then becomes, can become a little bit of a. way to avoid what we’re really talking about here, because we are talking about something that we do not understand.

We do not understand after death communication, we don’t understand the time. We don’t understand what that means in terms of you’re dead and then you’re between lives and then you’re after death and then your reincarnation. We don’t understand any of that. So are we at risk here in jumping to the IADC?

Okay. We just put a name on it as kind of pretending maybe that we understand it a little bit more than we do.

[00:47:32] Stephen Berkley: I’m not sure how to answer that question because the question presupposes that we have to, I mean, we know that a band-aid will stop the bleed. We don’t necessarily have to know what the substance is.

[00:47:48] Alex Tsakiris: , but we know why a bandaid stops the bleeding. That’s exactly. That is exactly the point. And, you know, further, well, it it’s, it’s not a good one. It’s like the other ones in the, in the, in the, in the movie, like religion, religion, I’ll jump right in there. And you know, again, I don’t know how you did it, but people got to watch the film because, and again, you do this trick, whether it’s inadvertent or not, where

[00:48:13] Stephen Berkley: what’s the trick.

[00:48:14] Alex Tsakiris: Well, that was going to say where the religious pontificating kind of lack of awareness kind of person, whether they be the rabbi or the Christian Catholic guy, or I forget who else you have in there. They’re talking to the people, they’re talking to the real people who are experiencing it. And they look particularly foolish because when they’re debating and another way that we usually see these people, they can sound, I don’t know, somewhat credible, but in here they look absolutely ridiculous. And then you have an expert, come on and say, Geez. How can a guy say that these experiences that no one should consider or explore or participate these in experiences when they’re all over their holy books, it’s just up and down one after another, it’s just complete social engineering control it.

It doesn’t look like anything else. So this gets back to this question of, I don’t know how else you do it because science is so mired in this materialism and we can wave our arms, route, all the progress that’s been made, but it really doesn’t amount to much. So to play the science game, we have to play like we have invented something or there’s something real here that we know about when we don’t and that’s okay.

But really bodkins answer is completely unsatisfactory to say. We don’t need to understand it. We don’t need to understand the causes of it. We just need, we just need to measure it as this makes people feel a little bit better. There there’s a part of that. That’s okay. But there’s a part of that, that from a scientific standpoint is just severely lacking in terms of scientific curiosity.

[00:49:59] Stephen Berkley: Let me tell you why I

like his answer. I like his answer because he’s saying to these people who am I to impose my beliefs onto my patient or client, everyone has their own experience with IADC or whatever therapy that they’re doing. And there’s definitely parallels between the experiences we can measure them.

And we can come up with some kind of theoretical conclusion as to what these experiences mean. And there are people who are, I’m sure doing that, but from his perspective, he’s a hose, a healthcare professional. He just wants people to have the experience and draw their own conclusion. That’s fair.

Isn’t it?

[00:50:35] Alex Tsakiris: It’s fair. It’s just limited. And I think that we would expect someone in that situation. I mean, I think again, if you go to Jan, Holden, I think she does a better job of saying, okay. Like her book, which is a very important book handbook of near-death experiences. And she prepared that along with Bruce Greyson, primarily targeted at healthcare professionals who were dealing with people who were.

Recovering from a near-death experience, you know, their cardiac westward and they wake up and didn’t know how to explain it. So she was like, look, you don’t need to be the Rube in Steven’s film who says a bunch of stupid shit that isn’t true.

You need to be educated so you can do that. So in that sense, yeah. But if you ask Jan about the deeper philosophical. And spiritual and scientific implications of her work. She doesn’t pull up short. She doesn’t say, oh, well, that’s, that’s all we really need to worry about. She’s more online with, I hope I’m not over reaching, but is like, no man science needs to deal with this stuff.

It needs to deal with the fact that consciousness is fundamental and yeah, we can help people out here because they’re so indoctrinated with this dogmatic idea that completely limits them. Yeah. We can kind of to use your metaphor, put a little bandaid on it, but let’s not pretend like we’ve really addressed the fundamental issue.

Like in your film, Jeff Kripal does Jeff crap. He goes, look, you know, You want to play the scientism game you want to play? The brain is the EPA phenomena or her consciousness is an EPA phenomena. The brain, you can say it, it just isn’t true. It just like Jan says, well, you can say it, the research just doesn’t support it.

So, but can get, can get pushed into a corner and say, well, let’s just, you know, maybe this will help, you know, these people kind of thing. That’s fine, but it doesn’t really address the deeper. Yeah.

[00:52:41] Stephen Berkley: Yeah. Well, that’s what your whole show is about. Right? You want to move that needle forward in science and where Botkins coming from and perhaps where I’m coming from as well is more of a, just helping people kind of a place.

And it would be nice for people to have that scientific support. So they don’t have to lie to their friends as to what they’re doing. That would be wonderful. And that would help. But that’s where what’s it like with Joe Dispenza says in the film where he says. We have to do what feels good to us. And science has to catch up to where we are.

So I’m coming from it from that angle

where you’re shaking your head. So what if one of those, uh, what if one of those cultish religious guys said the same thing said, Hey, Steven, they don’t, they don’t need to call down there, send them in, send them into my confessional. I’ll make them feel better. I’ll make them, I’ll make them feel the blood of Jesus coursing through their vein.

And that somehow they’ll go through this weekend retreat and you know, we’ll take them to this Mormon guy. Oh, there’s all sorts of people said they can make it feel better under you want science to hold them accountable.

[00:54:00] Alex Tsakiris: I want us. To hold everyone accountable, just based on common sense logic that we know and

[00:54:08] Stephen Berkley: know catch up to us.

Right. I’m saying the same thing.

[00:54:13] Alex Tsakiris: Well, I don’t think you’re saying the same thing. Cause you know, I think when Botkin says, you know, I’m just interested in. Making people feel better. Again, we’re just tracing the same ground. Like if Botkin wants to say, I’m just interested in helping this class of people, , deal better with this particular health problem that they have, which is severe chronic grief.

That’s fine. Cause the problem Steven does science can’t really handle this at the end of the day. You can’t, when you say science will catch up. No science will not catch

[00:54:51] Stephen Berkley: up. I was thinking we’re forcing science. We’re forcing science to look at something that we’ve, we’ve discovered,


[00:54:58] Alex Tsakiris: not, not really.

I mean, to kind of switch into the philosophy of science. Science depends on the idea that the world is out there and we can measure the world and we can reliably measure the world. And that there’s this kind of continuation of time and all this other stuff. If what we’re finding, is that those fundamental assumptions aren’t true.

Then we can’t really expect science to really tackle


[00:55:28] Stephen Berkley: Well, let me, let me ask you this. I’m not sure if this is on point or not. Quantum physics has been around for a while. It’s doing something very different than the science of Newton, right? So why hasn’t the needle moved farther up?

[00:55:44] Alex Tsakiris: , my fundamental understanding, and this is not where I was at at the beginning of skeptical, but it is certainly where I’m at now is that there is a strong motivation to not move the needle and that people who are aware of their expanded consciousness, their connection to the divine, because we haven’t even talked about any of that.

This isn’t just talking to dead people. This is about connecting to a love, a glow, a light, if you will, that transcends all human experience. And I think that there’s a lot of people who have a vested interest in. Being the intermediary between you and that light religion has a motivation for doing that. Certainly . They don’t want you experiencing the light, experiencing God directly. They want to be the intermediary. They want to say, come through me. You got any of that experience. You’re on the forest. She saw that you felt the light.

You felt that expanded consciousness. No, no, no, no. Come back here. Just like the goddess in your film because no, no, no, no. All of that. No, don’t go there. Don’t go there. That is criminally criminally, criminally insanely, negligent and bigoted and science is doing the same thing.

Science is saying you’re a biological robot and meaningless universe. How dare you think that, that you could have anything more in this life? Just still, what the fuck we say, put on the mask, take the jab to get your black Friday brochure out, use your credit card, but don’t ever for a minute.

Think that you’re more than just biology.

[00:57:32] Stephen Berkley: Well said. I could agree with you more. Okay.

[00:57:38] Alex Tsakiris: So this film is, great for all the reasons I said, but I don’t know that we really, I kind of got us off track with the story arc.

There’s nothing I didn’t like about this. I thought I thought it was great. It was shot beautifully done. Beautifully. The story carries. There’s no narration in the story just goes, but again, let me return. Cause I don’t know if I gave you a chance to really fully talk about it.

The story arc is, is really, really meaningful. It’s meaningful to the people involved, but it’s also meaningful for the movie. And , I think it’s obviously where you’re really trying to go with this film and how you’re trying to touch people. Tell us about that.

[00:58:18] Stephen Berkley: You know, it’s funny. I, my, , my partner, Christopher, , asked me why, w why was it making the film?

And I thought about it and I gave him one answer. Then I gave him a different answer. Then I slept on it and we talked the next day. And he said, I think, I think I might have something to do with my father. I’m not sure, but I think I might be doing it for him. And Christopher said, we all do it for our fathers anyway.

Um, you know, I’m not sure if this answers your question, but I really wanted to help my mom. And I was really just, I was, I, I really was infuriated with a grief counselor, and I knew that people would just feel a lot better if they felt, if they believed they had hope that there was something that went on to that, to another realm and.

I just wanted to support the people in my mother’s community who had that belief. I didn’t want, let me go to the DSM for a second. So you have a sophisticated audience. They know what the DSN is, I assume.

[00:59:28] Alex Tsakiris: . But go ahead. It never hurts.

[00:59:29] Stephen Berkley: Died the diagnostic and statistical manual for mental health disorder, something along those lines, which doctors reference, uh, on a daily basis.

There’s a section on there called the hallucinations of bereavement. Alex, what would you call hallucination of bereavement? Would you, would you say that with an oxymoron, could you make sense of that phrase? How could something be normal and, and hallucination? So that’s in the DSM and it says, okay, these are normal.

Don’t pathologize them. And 50 years ago, right? We find this guy, do your Reese, did this study found out that half the people have these things. So why on earth are we still pathologizing them? So yes, these healthcare professionals are derelict in their duties. They should know about this science because it’s already half a century old.

So it doesn’t really make sense that they’re not looking there. And it is reprehensible. I would, I would say for the psychiatrist and the family in the film who I defended earlier now, I’m kind of getting on the train and saying, yeah, he should know this is normal. And it’s actually helpful to most people have these experiences.

So I am delighted that I’ve uncovered this in my own research. I’m delighted that I can share it in a kind of an entertaining way. And what was the most important thing for me when making this film is that I wanted to make a mainstream movie I wanted, I wanted, I didn’t want to. Preach to the choir. I wanted to speak to people on the fence because that’s where I was 10 years ago.

I was on the fence. And that’s why I try to straddle that line again. That’s why I just wanted to kind of show both sides, have real people having real experiences, having real pundits talk about what these experiences could mean. Yes. I was contrasting them at times. I was making certain, perhaps purposely on by accident, making some of the speakers look a little foolish, but I think what I’ve been complimented for this and I, and I’m proud of the fact that I have respect for everyone who spoke in the film.

I respect for their industry that they’re in. And I don’t want to portray anybody like a clown. So I understand, I respect your opinion. I’m actually delighted that you have a strong reaction to some of the speakers in the film. I share your opinion and in some, in a smaller way, I share your opinion very often.

But I do respect everyone in it.

Great. I will just mention , no one comes through as a clown. No one comes through as someone who’s being kind of set up, , in any way and that’s to your, to your credit. Definitely. So Steven, where, where will you go with the film? How will you get this out to people who need to see it?

Because as you just said, quite perfectly eloquently, there’s a lot of people who will see this and will take direct action that will make their life better. They’ll see it. They’ll help a family member take action that will make their life better.

I’m glad you asked that question right now. It’s in the film festivals.

Where it’s, as you pointed out earlier, it’s done very well. Great. It’s won best film and best feature in two different film festivals. So that’s, that’s a great feather in my filmmaking cap, but in terms of getting out to the people, that’s really my, my main priority. I want to have like a virtual summit.

I don’t know when it’s going to be yet, but it’s probably, hopefully it’s going to be like February, March area where I’m going to make the film available online for free. And I’ll package it with speakers from the film possibly and speakers who are just in the trauma grief space. And people can tune in over like a six day period, probably it’ll run and that’s going to give people, a lot of people are going to have an opportunity to see what see as then I also, I’m doing private screenings because the film festivals prohibit filmmakers from showing their films publicly.

During the film festival time, I have to wait until everything is all the festivals are over. So, but they do allow private screenings. So if people reach out to me through my website, they can go to my website, uh, living with ghosts and they can go to the host section. If you hit the host tab, you could basically ask me how you can host an event.

[01:04:08] Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, I, I think that’s terrific. And I can imagine people setting up little groups to do viewings of this among, you know, groups who are interested in it.

So yeah, I will definitely have a link where people can go and, you know, and then context even, and make that happen. So best of luck with all that, it’s really, really, it’s a great movie and I hope people, it’s not that hard. I mean, to find they can also just contact you can’t they just give you a 10 bucks and watch it kind of thing.

Isn’t it. They

[01:04:36] Stephen Berkley: will be able to do that soon. Unfortunately, it’s gotta be a part of a private event or they have to come to me privately. So if you want to write to me and get on my, on my list so I can invite you to a private event, I can do that for you. But

[01:04:49] Alex Tsakiris: if you contact Steven, if you contact Steve and you’ll figure out how to do it, and if you want to donate to this cause, which I, I promise even, cause I will cause it’s important.

I definitely am doing in general. I mean the more awareness he can bring to this, it’s just a very, I want to say it’s a, it’s a direct, indirect way of kind of, uh, helping people.

[01:05:12] Stephen Berkley: But Alice, why they don’t an aircraft to mention PBS, I’m trying to get a PBS broadcast sometime around Halloween of, of, of this coming year, this year.

So Halloween of 20, 22, I’m hoping to get it on PBS. They’ve already seen the film. They like it. I just don’t have a firm commitment yet. But when I do get that firm commitment, I’m going to need. To pay F uh, the, what is it called? The presenting station fee. I also, I’m going to have to recut it to be beat PBS standards.

That’s gonna cost some bucks, which I’m Adam. I spent all my money on the film. I did not save any for distribution. That was a foolish rookie mistake. Filmmakers are not supposed to do that. I did that. Whoops. So I am looking for donations to help me get it on PBS in the fall. And I also want to say, while I have this opportunity, Alex, that you helped me out quite a bit in terms of your program.

Skeptical was a huge part of my research. Skeptical was also a huge part of my finding the people I wanted to speak in this film. I could have called this film skeptical of the movie I didn’t, but I could have. So thank you very much for you, your program, the speakers you’ve had, they’ve been very educational

[01:06:19] Alex Tsakiris: ah, that’s super, super nice of you to say I am delighted that I could play, you know, that connector role in this. So, great, great. Glad to have been there, Steven, best of luck with this important film living with ghosts, make sure you check it out and, uh, you’ll have to, uh, we’ll have to reconnect, you know, maybe this fall next fall.

Yeah. This fall, you know, when it’s kind of rounding out, we’ll come back and see where this is going. Cause I got a feeling you are going to be a kind of a go-to person in this very important field. So let’s stay in touch. Right?

[01:07:00] Stephen Berkley: Well do my pleasure, Alex. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

[01:07:02] Alex Tsakiris: Thanks again to Steven Berkeley for joining me today on skeptical. The one question I tee up from this interview slightly off topic, but not really.

What are the implications of these extended consciousness technologies? So think back about your trauma. Let me tap on your hands and boof. Something happened . Something changes. What are we supposed to think? That means about consciousness, about our place in this.

Extended consciousness realm. Let me know your thoughts has always loved to hear from you.

Good or bad, let it hang out there. . So much more to come stay with me for all of that. Until next time, take care. And bye for now.

(music: Tomie’s Bubbles Candlegravity). [box]

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