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I was one of those annoying kids–and teens–who, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, believed that everyone was essentially good. There were no people who hurt others for fun or to engage in a power play for the pleasure of it, only difficult, unjust circumstances that made people do bad things. As an investigator into the afterlife, I discovered that true evil does exist quite objectively and independently of one’s circumstances or any explanation that we might be able to proffer. The most difficult aspect of reaching 50 years (almost 51), is the realization that evil is not only a real force in the world, but that it has to be fought on multiple fronts.

psychopathy

Around 4% of the population is clinically sociopathic. Sociopaths are represented disproportionately in large organizations, usually in a position of power over others. They also show up in classrooms, families, churches and anywhere else people congregate for one purpose or another. I have met classic cases of this personality disorder over my 27 year teaching career. It never gets easier to deal with the student who spends all of his time attempting to manipulate me, his fellow students and anyone with whom he comes into contact. Superficially charming, friendly and open, the sociopath will turn on you with true viciousness once he’s figured out that his tactics have not worked with you. If you keep true to your boundaries, he will quickly seek out ways to hurt you, using whatever information he has gleaned about what matters to you. Once he knows what’s important to you, he will systematically attempt to destroy it.

The kind of cruel manipulation that I have seen in the living, I have also experienced with the ‘dead’: the demonic entity is simply the sociopath on steroids. That malevolent energy feeds off of innocent and trusting investigators and attempts to control their emotions, actions, and behavior with the goal of proving to them that they have no control over their lives, their destiny, their dreams or their loved ones. In essence, the sociopath, the ‘lower entity’, the demonic, all share that common goal: destroy your sense of autonomy and kill your hopes for the future. They also seek to kill off the most hated and feared emotion: love.

That, of course, no demon or sociopath can accomplish. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, and nothing can contain it, destroy it or alter it. I know that if I could face evil with love every time it attacks me, I would win. Perhaps not immediately, but love always wins in the end. Even the most frightening individual is at a loss when confronted with true love. I think that’s the only way I can understand Jesus, both as a concept and as a historical figure: He preached that all evil must be met with unconditional love, for darkness flees in the face of light. It simply cannot exist.

Institutions, corporations, individuals, governments, religions, any organized grouping of people will suffer from the chaos that the sociopath needs in order to thrive. However, the concept of ‘turning the other cheek’ is not about passively accepting the whims of the powerful and the corrupt, but about diffusing its energy, it’s reason to exist. Direct resistance is futile with evil in any of its forms. You can’t ‘win’ or ‘beat’ the demonic or the pathological personality at its own game. The sociopath will always win if you attempt to play his game on his turf. You have to win differently: by succeeding in spite of what is thrown at you, by enjoying the love of your friends, families, students and coworkers and by understanding that what evil wants is for you to be miserable. Nothing is more confounding, frustrating, enraging and confusing for the sociopath that witnessing your daily joy in life. That is your best and only revenge.

Much love to you all,

KirstenFullSizeRender

Kitty and Ty

I grew up hearing this:

“You’re weird.” “You’re too sensitive.” “You’re unrealistic and impractical.” “You need to toughen up and live in the ‘real’ world.” (my parents were NOT the main offenders; my peers were)

I accepted it. After all, there were ‘normal’ people who all saw the world the same way, and then there was me. I figured out that there was a proper way to behave, a right way to understand people and interpret reality, and then there was my way. I grew up apologizing for who I was, feeling that I had no right to exist because I was too different to belong anywhere and too weird for anyone to love me for any length of time. My classmates quite literally threw rocks at me. Some people who read Soulbank whether by design or by accident do the same thing.

When you grow up believing that your perceptions are incorrect because you have deviated from a norm, the effects are devastating and long lasting. For one thing, I lost any sense of self worth and became a victim of abuse in personal and professional relationships. I didn’t know how to defend myself, because I was not worthy of defending. I apologized for my very existence because I seemed to offend, anger, displease or upset certain people without any intention to do so. To this day, I arouse strong, negative emotions in certain individuals for simply going about my life.

It’s hard to go about my life. I have tried to fit it to the mainstream in a thousand different ways. Of course, it never works. The result is depression and anxiety. I am very lucky to have a family that appreciates me and is extraordinarily loyal. I would like to think that I am all grown up now and don’t care about those who despise me for deviating from this path that we’re all supposed to take and the philosophies we are all supposed to buy into. However, I recently found out that someone with a certain amount of power and influence in my life has declared me ’emotionally unstable’ due to my interests in the paranormal and life after death.

If, in order to be considered ’emotionally stable’ by the outside world, I am required to believe that my entire existence depends upon chemical reactions in my brain, that God is a concept for controlling the ignorant masses or that in order to be an academic I must renounce all faith in the human spirit and soul, then go ahead: bring on the labels. I have to, after all, toughen up if I am going to handle the bullies.

In the meantime, have the courage to be ‘weird,’ different and marginalized by your culture. You are, or will be, the revolutionaries.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

CREEPY REAL ESTATE PHOTOS

creepy real estate photo

I look at a LOT of real estate photographs, since I’ve been on a perpetual house hunt for the last 2.5 years. Every now and then, something like this pops up as I’m endlessly swiping through boring house pictures. I have to believe that the owners have a sense of humor, or perhaps they don’t actually want to sell their house.

I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life studying houses and their particular spirits, because I am convinced that every house has a life of its own, either created through the multiple energies of those that lived there, or perhaps manifesting that life independently of the living . . . it’s always a mystery, one that–for me–requires unraveling and research. The photos that sellers post on real estate sites are supposed to be a reflection of the warmth, the love and the joy that the home contained; however, some homes simply have none of those emotions associated with them:

Creepy Real estate photo2

I think someone died on that toilet. I don’t understand why anyone would think that this is a good idea. I see a vaguely threatening figure in the shower.

creepy Real estate photo3

This is not a welcoming hallway. Notice the scratches on the wall on the left hand side of the photo. WHAT animal did that?

Some people are very, very conflicted about selling their home. I understand that, I really do. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming from my house on Marmora. I made little “tear crosses” on the walls, promising that I would return. It was a pathetic, terrible scene, one that lingered in my psyche for years. So yes, I get it; you need to sell, but you really don’t want to, so you post photos that are ‘ambivalent,’ to say the least. Your choice of image reflects your state of mind. Maybe the next photo simply makes me look crazy, but I kind of like it:

creepy real estate photo4

What I find scariest when visiting houses is not the nutty or creative decor, but the sterile, Home Depot remodels that strip all life from a place, like the following photo from a current listing in Simi:

bad real estate photo

I would rather live in a haunted house, a house with emotion, a house that has been decorated and redecorated a thousand times and shows its age, than live in a place that looks like a clinic. I end with a house photo that I love. It’s a little, old shack in the hills. I hope one day, it might be MY little, old shack in the hills:

OAK KNOLLS

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

An Unusual Rant

Kirsten doubled

Dear Readers: Today, you’re going to hear me boot the nice Kitty to the curb, because the angry Kitty is ready to write today. Forgive her for her lack of fuzziness and warmth. That persona will be back soon. In the meantime, this is what’s going on:

Every now and then, some kind soul will send me hate mail. Hate mail is never fun to receive, but on the other hand, it means that people are reading. Just like there is no bad publicity, there is always cause for a writer to celebrate when someone takes the time to send an email, even if it’s vicious vitriol from an inflamed and angry soul whose sensibilities you’ve offended.

There is a segment of the population who despises all talk of the survival of consciousness–the idea that we are more than meat machines–and the very notion of the human spirit. In part, those people have been hurt by organized religion, and think (falsely) that I am promoting religion or a particular vision/version of God. I understand the backlash; but let me be clear: although I consider myself Christian, I do not write on soulbank with a conversion agenda nor am I an apologist for a particular faith. Atheists are always welcome to debate issues relating to the survival of death of some aspect of human consciousness.

However, there is a trend in my hate mail: people who believe that nothing survives death–no soul, no spirit, no aspect of consciousness–tend to insult me on a personal level. There is a certain pattern to the meanness: first, attack my PhD. Start by telling me how you can’t believe that someone with an advanced degree would spout such drivel, etc. Then, move on to how worthless my degree must be in order for me to question the status quo of materialism. Then, express dismay at the state of higher education to allow someone like me to exist in the world at all. If you are a distant relative of mine, or a friend of a distant relative, your next move it to wring your hands in dismay over my ‘lost promise’.

The hate mail usually goes on to question my psychology: I am somehow traumatized or deficient in some way, suffering from a personality disorder or simply deluded. My mental stability is questioned or my emotional life must be out of whack. This is followed by the materialists’ trump card:

  • “this is wishful thinking on your part”

Of course, this is an old objection and the excuse for not researching the issue in any depth or at all: since this is just your desire speaking, there is no validity to the question in the first place. Or, there is that other objection that states that this is all fantasy akin to inventing some fantastic creature and attempting to prove it exists. To both of these very typical objections, and by way of some general observations, I offer the following:

  • There is no reason that people who disagree with me cannot be civil or polite in their responses; the failure to adhere to basic, human courtesy tells me more about how threatened YOU feel by the subject matter than it does about a rigorously defensible point of view;
  • My education, my writing and my critical thinking skills speak for themselves. If you are disappointed in me or think that I can’t defend a premise, you are free to stop reading soulbank;
  • Thousands of years of human history have shown us that every culture has believed in a sort of afterlife, and that elaborate preparations for that life are a common feature of those cultures. To say that our entire, collective past is founded upon delusions and wishful thinking makes one the worst kind of colonizer: the kind that believes in her privilege to such an extent that you represent ‘civilization’ and all others are primitive savages with quaint, superstitious beliefs;
  • Science is moving in the direction of more openness regarding the possible existence of consciousness after clinical death. There is now a considerable chorus of voices representing many disciplines in the sciences who are considering the ‘life after life’ questions with curiosity and receptivity. To anyone who wants a bibliography, just let me know. I have a great many books by doctors, physicists, neuroscientists and others who have dared to consider this question.
  •  There is no need to make a religion out of materialism and defend it to the point of alienating anyone who disagrees with you. If you believe in scientific materialism and will not consider evidence to the contrary, that’s fine–but there is no need to be vindictive, wounding, insulting and condescending in the process. Is this what happens to people who deny the human spirit?

There are many nasty things one can write to me that will have no effect. However, there is one kind of attack that I have difficulty with: those who seek to deny the validity of others’ experiences. People tend to label and insult what they do not understand or have not themselves experienced. So, when someone feels that a possible past life is the best explanation for their anomalous memories, feelings and/or behaviors, to call into question that person’s sanity or to state that they are naive, deluded, unable to think critically or don’t understand their own psychology, is an act of violence.

When a widow says she was visited by her late husband and told some important information that is later verified, to call her crazy, to say she’s unable to distinguish reality from fantasy due to grief, is an act of violence.

When someone comes back after a period of clinical death to say that they had an out of body experience where they had extraordinary powers of perception and understanding and you call them sick, drugged or a victim of a ‘dying brain’, that is an act of violence.

When someone has predicted the future, read someone’s thoughts, communicated with the dead, all under strict controls and evaluated in an academic setting by well trained scientists–to insult the researchers, to belittle the protocols, to question everybody’s ethics, IS AN ACT OF VIOLENCE.

Let me go further. Even if all these people, across all these cultures, all throughout human history, did not have labs, scientists and formal experiments to monitor their experiences, to call those ‘experiencers’ insane, misled, misinformed, deluded, uneducated or victims of their own desires/illusions/fantasies, etc. IS AN ACT OF VIOLENCE.

Whenever we seek to denigrate a human experience that we share with MILLIONS of others, we perpetuate a witch hunt against those who are at odds with our dominant, militant culture of scientific materialism. Whether or not anomalous experiences have been proven for YOU, to YOUR satisfaction, is another issue completely. What I will never understand is why those who profess no belief in anything other than the mechanical/biological workings of the material self behave in ways that are intended to belittle and mock those who see something transcendent and universal behind the forms of the world. To see beyond the material is not to deny the material, or the importance of the disciplines that study it.

If I see beyond this world, it is not due to a sick or infantile brain; it’s comes from a mind that has been either blessed or cursed to perceive pieces of a reality that connect and explain the mysteries of consciousness that lie just beyond the full grasp of any of us, even–or especially–the academics who study the world so ardently.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

 

 

 

 

life and death quote

If you believe, like so many profess to, in the existence of the human soul (or consciousness, if you prefer) as something separate from the material body, then you must also accept that the sharp distinctions we draw between life and death don’t make logical sense. How do you define life? Are you so completely entwined and identified with your body and its chemical processes that you can’t imagine a ‘self’ without them? It’s a bit like saying that your car is you, or your clothes are you; if you leave one and shed the other, are you no longer yourself?

I have written before about what all children know when their pet dies. After ‘death,’ the body has nothing to do with the pet. Everything that made that animal your pet departs at the moment of death. We do ourselves a disservice by asking WHERE the pet ‘went.’ The usual categories upon which we depend to locate a self do not apply here. Only in the material world can one say where you are in space and time. Does that mean that you do not exist after your material body ‘gives up the ghost’? Of course not. You exist, but not as a material entity. Sometimes we can contact the self that exists after physical death, and for centuries, human beings have done so. Contact with the non-material self has happened countless times and will continue to happen.

Why is this so hard to believe? For me, that’s the real mystery. There is abundant evidence dating back thousands of years that all cultures on this planet have engaged in practices designed to contact the departed. Contact with the ‘deceased’ has been empirically studied for 150 years. That’s all the Society for Psychical Research did for many, many years. In any jury on the planet, the case for life after life has been proven time and time and time again. Why, then, is our culture so loath to accept something that any intelligent human being, reviewing the evidence, would be utterly convinced of?

Two reasons:

1) American culture focuses almost exclusively on the material world, because we are a capitalist culture that needs materialism to justify our economic system. If you focus exclusively on making this life comfortable and fun, then you need to buy a lot of stuff to accomplish the American goal of getting rich. YOLO is the supporting doctrine for consumerism. BUY baby, buy a lot, because you only live once!!!

2) Religion. If religion is the exclusive domain of the human spirit, then all expressions of that spirit can be controlled and defined by doctrine, often in the service of an economic and political system that directly benefits from that doctrine (think fundamentalists of any stripe).

OK, so you might think that this is all too pessimistic or too conspiracy-theorist, but it makes sense to me after years of contemplating this topic. If you agree, or if you don’t, write to me!

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

The Devil is a Nice Guy

Lucifer 1

I watched the first episode of “Lucifer” when it premiered. One would expect a few things given that this is television, after all: the supposedly “immune to Lucifer’s charms” detective looks to be about 26, tops, and is hot, of course. Nothing new there.

Lauren German

I expected Lucifer to be tall, dark and handsome, as is appropriate for a Romantic portrayal of the fallen angel (there’s a rich tradition in European, 19th century literature of portraying the Devil that way). There are plenty of inside jokes about Lucifer’s “Father,” and his reluctance to return to the Underworld. Some of the acting is rather bad, and the story is somewhat simplistic and seems targeted to teens and 20-somethings, who deserve better than these diluted story lines and predictable plot twists. Everything seems too easy, natural and light in this show, and even when they are attempting to be serious via the apparitions of the black-winged angel admonishing Lucifer for being bad, nothing seems particularly weighty, and certainly nothing here suggests real evil.

And therein lies the rub. There is no attempt here to address the nature of evil. Here, Lucifer is portrayed as the “devil with a soul,” a character that nobody would take seriously as evil incarnate. This reinforces the idea that evil is kind of cool, sexy, bad in a rebellious teenager kind of bad, and most of all, nothing to be truly afraid of. If, however, you have ever been confronted with true evil, the kind that sears your soul and makes you fear for your sanity, then you know that it’s truly dangerous to make evil appear bland and adventurous.

Hanna Arendt

True evil loves to hide behind such silliness. My favorite line about the Devil comes from “The Usual Suspects”: ‘The greatest trick of the Devil was convincing the world he didn’t exist’. The other ‘greatest trick of the devil’ is convincing the world that evil isn’t all that bad, and can actually be fun and super sexy! Our American media culture is so used to downplaying anything truly awful and scary to the point of inculcating in us all a sort of moral mediocrity, a blase attitude about anything too upsetting. Yes, I do understand that the Entertainment Industry’s job is to ‘entertain’ us, but I also think that if your topic is Lucifer and, by association, evil, then you have some obligation to at least SUGGEST how evil truly operates in the world. This has been done well before: think of the iconic figure of Hannibal Lecter. Look at those eyes. Those are eyes that suggest the power and horror of evil. Not the blandly handsome eyes of our hero in this new show.

Hannibal

Why bother taking evil seriously? Quite simply, because it exists and can destroy our lives. It kills, mains, seduces, rapes, distracts, lies, manipulates and destroys the good and the noble in our character. It threatens our humanity, our love, our hope and our belief in God. It can lurk in obvious places, such as in the hearts of ruthless killers, but it also can be found corrupting our politicians, bankers, CEOs and anyone or any group with power over others’ lives. Evil can be found all over social media, distracting us from useful and creative pursuits. It can be found in a raised fist at home. It can be found on paranormal investigations, classrooms, offices, homes, churches . . . it’s everywhere.

banality of evil

That, my friend, is truly terrifying. We have to fight it wherever it infects our environment. It’s not going to show itself in obvious ways. We need a moral education; we are starving for shows about the true nature of Good and Evil and powerful ways to combat the demons. Shows like “Lucifer” do us all a disservice by turning evil into a fun hour of hot guys in nightclubs. We can’t be warriors for the Good until we know what we are truly fighting.

Lucifer

Kitty with Yale degree

Is this shameless self promotion on my part, bragging about my degree? Well, sure it is! I worked my ass off to get this PhD, and I’m damn proud of it. Why post this now? There are some articles circulating on social media sites debating whether or not one needs ‘fancy letters’ after one’s name in order to be a published expert on the paranormal. Before I go any further, my degree is not in the ‘paranormal’ because, as I will elucidate, there ARE NO DEGREES IN THE PARANORMAL. My degree is in Spanish literature, culture and language with a minor in Portuguese. My degree, however, did prepare me to conduct research into survival of consciousness, but first things first.

1) There are no ‘experts’ on the paranormal. What makes an expert? Usually a degree in your field (yup, those fancy letters again), articles in peer reviewed journals, the respect of your colleagues, and a solid reputation in academic or institutional circles. In other words, a community of your peers decides whether or not you’re an expert. The study of the paranormal at the moment lacks a rigorous curriculum of study with experts in the field. There is no formal degree in the paranormal. The closest you can get is the University of Arizona, the University of Virginia and the University of Edinburgh. Those universities have “divisions,” usually housed within the Psychology Department, that explore such anomalies as ESP, transpersonal awareness, survival of consciousness, the study of mediumship and reincarnation. You can’t obtain a “degree” in the paranormal; you have to get the PhD within the department of psychology or psychiatry first, and that requires taking a ton of basic, academic courses in the discipline. You are not, when you graduate, an “expert” in the paranormal, but a trained psychologist whose research interests delve into the so-called ‘paranormal.’

2) You can be well respected in paranormal community outside of higher education, but you give something up. What do you give up? The respect of academia and the larger culture, which still recognizes education and degrees as necessary for expertise in a subject. Are there idiotic professors with fancy letters after their name? OF COURSE. There are people who can find ways to earn a PhD without any original or interesting thinking on their part. It is entirely possible to spend several years slavishly imitating whatever your professors tell you just so you can get that degree, and once you have it, you can endlessly repeat what others have told you and never really accomplish anything of value. That is true in every, single profession. Letters after your name do not make you talented, original or your work worth reading. But it does mean this: You worked hard for something you wanted. You took years’ worth of courses, you read hundreds of books, you wrote countless papers, your had to research your topic at 3:00 AM in the all-night section of your university library, you gave up your social life while you studied for oral comprehensive exams, you almost passed out from exhaustion writing your 500 page dissertation . . . I could go on and on. If you received your PhD from a legitimate institution of higher learning, then there were blood, sweat and tears involved.

3) Any degree from a college or university should mean that you know how to conduct research and think critically. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Since there is no formal degree in parapsychology that I am aware of, there is a HUGE benefit to a BA, MA and/or PhD in another field. You learn how to approach a topic critically and you understand what is necessary to conduct formal research. You read and read and read and read and read everything you can get your hands on. You know all about the Society for Psychical Research and can name most of the founding members. You are a member of the ASPR. There are many things you can do right now to improve your level of expertise in the paranormal, with or without a degree. If you want to take your education into your own hands, go for it. However, if you are not actively conducting research and reading the ‘paranormal canon’ of great works, then you will end up going in circles with the weirdness of what you’re experiencing on investigations. You need a theory. In order to come up with a theory, or various theories, you need to educate yourself first.

4) Look, nobody needs a degree to investigate a haunted site. I get that. Nobody needs to read in order to collect a million audio clips. Nobody needs to study the history of a place or catch up on quantum theory in order to do a Ghost Box session. Here is the problem with all this investigating without studying: you will amass hundreds, thousands, of audio clips, photos, video clips and so on without any kind of supporting theory to explain it. You will end up a collector of random bits of information without telling your audience what it might mean on a larger, philosophical level. You need History, Science, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and the Humanities to understand the enormity of what you are stumbling across in the dark. It’s important what you are all doing; IT IS TOO IMPORTANT TO DO AS A HOBBY. You need commitment, you need to read, you need to think. I don’t care if you have a fancy degree, but you do need an education.

I do care that you find answers for us all, answers that are not repetitive, vainglorious or frivolous. Dive down into the meaning of the mystery, however you can, and share what you find with the rest of us.

That’s what truly matters.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD
Yale University, 1992

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