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By Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

Bio: My PhD is from Yale University in the area of Spanish and Modern Languages. Although I am not a physicist or a scientist by training, I was trained in critical thinking across the disciplines and have read a wide array of texts on the nature of time, physics for the lay reader, and theories of reality in the field of philosophy. I have attempted, though direct investigations of the so-called paranormal, to access the nature of reality, death, time and the afterlife, although most of my research is academic in nature. I have experienced anomalous events my entire life, and my primary goal here at Soulbank is to find plausible scientific theories to explain common human experiences that science has not yet adequately explained. If you are a professional scientist/physicist who happens to stumble across my blog, I ask that you please consider seriously my analyses and patiently correct any misstatements or misunderstandings that might inadvertently arise due to my lack of technical (mathematical) training. 

My last post attempted to elucidate the “block theory” of time and how–if we were able to view events from a vantage point outside of the spacetime bubble we occupy–we would see time as an endless series of events stretching from what we call the ‘past,’ through something nebulous and impossible to define called the ‘present,’ on into what we consider the ‘future.’ My theory, pieced together from various theorists such as Richard Muller, Sean Carroll, and John Ashmead (a big influence) among many others. These are my basic starting points:

  • Past, present and future are human categories of understanding experience and have no necessary, permanent standing in reality;
  • Although most texts seem to affirm that the “Big Bang” kicked off entropy and our current perception of time as following entropic processes from low to high, this is by no means everyone’s opinion; Richard Muller argues that there are many instances of entropy working in various directions all around us, and that there is no reason to assume that increasing entropy creates time. Therefore, I will leave that discussion alone for the most part, seeing as there appears to be no general consensus on the matter.
  • Humans associate time with their own aging and eventual death, based on the breakdown of material substances we observe daily. We see nature’s cycles of birth, growth, decay and death and create our timeline based upon them. However, and I believe this is an important point to make, not all cultures measure time in the same fashion. The Maya calendar is nothing like our modern, Western version. Many indigenous calendars are based on ever-widening cycles that, when viewed, bear a fascinating resemblance to block time. All events are laid out in cycles that allow for predictions of what is to come. Not all cultures are as aggressively ego-centric as the West concerning measuring time simply as a function of the self’s material decay; we are obsessed with our mortality and our aging, to the point that we’ve created a culture that deifies youth and demonizes death. There is certainly a cultural explanation for why time, for the West, is tied to the shortening of our telomeres. Correlation is not causation: we correlate the passing of seconds, minutes, hours, years, decades, etc. to our observations of physical decline and from those observations, create time. Simply because we’ve chosen to create this association between physical death and time passing, does not imply that there is anything fundamental or necessary (no rules required here) about it. We have not defined time by associating it with aging and death. Death is simply another event in the block universe, inevitable because we occupy a physical cycle of experience, but not ontologically the terminus of anything but a body (now, of course, would normally be the moment when I argue that the biggest illusion of all is to tie our consciousness to a body, but I’ll wait on that).
  • I will not be the person to reconcile quantum theories of ‘spooky action at a distance’ with General Relativity. However, it makes sense to me that our consciousness is quantum based, and Stuart Hameroff, MD has extensively discussed this. I realize that most physicists won’t touch this topic, or anything related to consciousness, but I am at liberty to do so and hope some of you are willing to take it seriously. It seems to me that the only way to reconcile two apparently irreconcilable theories of reality is to accept that consciousness plays a role in the reality we experience and possibly creates what we observe. This is not really a novel statement. Many others have said it before. The implications are, however, stunning. It is our consciousness that has access to the block universe and can overcome the limitations of time and death by recognizing the non-material basis of experience, observation, self awareness and the universality of concepts such as justice, love, peace, selflessness and sacrifice. And if all of that sounds too New Age, please be aware that I base this on reading intensively across several disciplines, and it’s not a belief system based upon nebulous emotions or desires.

The above points represent the basics for what I am about to say next. Any theory on time, reality of events, observation of events and the role of consciousness in the creation of the reality we observe must always circle back to what makes intuitive sense an average, rational, thinking human being. We must respect human experience while enlarging said experience at the same time. While it is true that we observe aging and death in all living things, that is not the ONLY reality that we are aware of; it’s simply the only reality we feel comfortable sharing, discussing, and advocating for fear of criticism, ridicule or censure if we openly discuss alternative experiences that point to a different interpretation of our lives.

Human beings across the centuries have shared certain anomalous experiences (although they were not considered ‘anomalous’ for most cultures) that point both to the reality of the Block Universe AND to the quantum underpinnings of consciousness. It may well be that free will and autonomy–two concepts so central to the West’s ideology of limitless expansion, progress, perfectibility, and endless opportunity for self creation–are not real in and of themselves, but simply appear that way to us. In the end, if it SEEMS that we create the future, do we really need to panic if that isn’t how the universe works? But first, let’s look at some common features of human experience that point to Eternalism or some close cousin to it:

  • Precognition: Knowing what is about to happen and consequently experiencing that event is not about motion towards the future and then backwards motion to the past, but about human consciousness briefly occupying a different ‘slice’ of spacetime that contains the events that result from previous conditions in spacetime slice X1. Both slices–X in the ‘present’ and X1 in the ‘future’ are both forward and retro causal in keeping with observations that the distinction between cause and effect is not fundamental to the field of physics. Of course, cause and effect rules the physical world, but once you are in the realm of precognition and retrocognition, you are in a realm where the ordinary laws of physics may or may not apply.
  • Deja-vu, or the ‘reliving’ of an experience that you don’t consciously recognize as ever happening before. Often, there is an abundance of veridical information that the individual could not have known under normal circumstances. Consciousness can have glitches, where the brain stops ordering experience chronologically and for a moment allows us to enter the Block Universe by skipping us to another page in the flip book. Both deja-vu (‘already seen’) and precognition are not ‘reading’ future events or reliving past events that haven’t occurred yet, but reflecting a breakdown of our perception of time that allows access to other realities in spacetime that are always already there.
  • It’s possible that we experience ‘prior’ and ‘post’ events on a regular basis, but our brains only record experiences that allow for the perception of time as flowing into the future. Our memory function is designed for this perception, thus memories of the future are routinely ‘wiped’ from consciousness in order to preserve the illusion of the self moving into an uncreated future of infinite possibility. If we did not believe that the future is open and uncreated, then we would cease to evolve, to struggle, to create, to suffer, to work, to dream, to hope and to transcend our physical, material reality; for those with faith, we would stop seeking God.
  • GHOSTS (finally): What we call ‘ghosts’ are simply human beings freed of the material universe moving freely through the Block Universe, or not moving at all and simply experiencing everything all at once, always. They are also us in a different spacetime slice. They might be entirely free of time, or they might have reversed to a particular reality where they are frozen and on endless repeat. To use the analogy of a record, they could be experiencing the whole of the album timelessly, or stuck in a glitch with the needle circling endlessly over the same experiences of trauma, desire, grief or guilt. Our ability to perceive them is an act of reciprocal consciousness: we observe them observing us. We call each other into existence similar to quantum experiments where the observer ‘collapses the wave function.’ A ghost is a collapsed wave function that consciousness has called into being. Before that, they were everywhere; or, they were stuck in a spacetime slice. Either way, seeing the ghost, accessing the future and remembering events that never happened, and all manner of other paranormal experience represent quantum effects of consciousness acting in and through the Block Universe of physics. With so-called ‘ghosts’, we need to remember that the old trope of ghosts ‘not knowing that they are dead’ represents a false conception of reality in the Block Universe. We have accessed their CURRENT REALITY. It’s not in the same ‘place’ as ours, so we assume that they are communicating from a place of non-existence (death), when in reality,  there is no such thing as non-existence in the Block Universe, and therefore no such thing as ‘death’ as we commonly understand it as the ‘end’ of one’s existence.   

This paradigm has staggering implications. Your death as a physical being is simply another event in the Block Universe, no more real than any other event; and since you obviously exist now, in the Block Universe you always exist somewhere. You will continue to exist after your physical functions cease, because somewhere in spacetime your physical functions have NOT ceased; so, when your brain is no longer filtering, ordering, organizing and interpreting your experiences, you can range through multiple ‘reality slices’ freed from the constraints of illusory chronology. Since consciousness creates, directs, and filters your experiences through a brain, connecting them to a body that is, in turn, ruled by entropy, once the body succumbs to disorganization, consciousness is free of time but not of experience. Consider this quote from the website scienceandnonduality.com:

“You create the experience of movement by thinking that the ‘you’ reading this article is the same self that ate breakfast this morning or went running yesterday. But in fact, all those selves are distinct, each one existing at a different point in time–which you could see simultaneously if you stepped outside of the universe. It’s only when your mind ties all these separate selves together that time starts to flow, much like flipping through the frames of an animated movie.”

Of course, these ‘selves’ are of necessity connected in some way, or the result would be psychosis or schizophrenia. Consciousness transcends the selves in the flip book, being atemporal and connected to all “time” frames at once. Consciousness chooses the form, format and organizational principles of human existence, so that we do not experience the fragmented selves of the flip book but a continuous flow of experience.

Consciousness can be said to have a dual function: The creation of the temporal flow, and the illusion of moving through time; and the transcendence of the previous illusion. Therefore, consciousness both creates and destroys the illusion of temporality, aging and death; it creates the fear of non-existence and is responsible for transcending that fear, since in the Block Universe, non-existence is a tautology.

If all of this is indeed how reality works, then we would expect that different versions of ourselves are already ‘out there’ and affecting material reality in some way. In fact, I believe that other versions of ourselves are occasionally perceived both by us and others. In Frederic Myer’s Census of Hallucinations (1894), some of the most intriguing reports concerned apparitions of the living. There is an extensive literature on astral projection, doubles, and ‘ghosts’ of those who are still alive appearing in various locales. It is possible for one to ‘haunt’ oneself, when another version of the self imposes itself on the consciousness of the version we most identify with. I have investigated sites with a friend who swears that she is haunting the sites of past trauma, and I myself have been told on more than one occasion that someone saw me clear as day somewhere other than where I was at that time. Instead of dismissing all of these accounts as psychological distortions or misperceptions, we should consider the possibility that our many, many selves in the Block Universe can occasionally wander through our current world and make themselves known to an observer.

There are so many versions of us and our stories out there that the possibilities for experiencing ourselves are infinite; if our stories have countless versions, then perhaps we have some control over which one we consciously experience. This might be as close as we can get to free will: we can make choices in this vague ‘now’ that will collapse the wave function of all those ‘future’ Kirstens out there. I can pick the version that will play out like changing the record. The records library is out there for all eternity, but I can choose which one to listen to. Maybe.

I think of all the mediums in history who were discredited by someone who believed to have ‘tricked’ them by asking for contact with someone who is still alive. There is no reason why a medium could not pick up on another version of an individual who has not experienced physical death. The Block Universe makes this just as feasible as contacting the physically ‘dead’. In fact, the Block Universe negates the power of death altogether.

The big question, however, remains: just what do we experience after physical death frees the brain from its task of making our lives seem coherent and chronological? I think of the fantastic possibilities of one’s consciousness invading someone else’s spacetime slice (possession or oppression), or of returning to your 10th birthday party unaware that you just ‘lived’ 96 years and ‘died’ and now you’re back to re experience another version of yourself from 10 onwards, perhaps only dimly recalling your retirement party (that won’t happen for another 55 years).

I can also see us jumping into another story altogether with a different body, family, country, language, customs, and so on. Ian Stevenson certainly provided compelling evidence for reincarnation, and the Block Universe provides a framework for consciousness to re-experience itself in a different physical reality. Or perhaps we can move into a universe entirely different from our own and experiencing a consciousness that we would not call human. Once you remove the boundaries of time and space, the scenarios are endless and awe inspiring. If nothing else, it should be clear to us that our current categories of understanding are often breached by direct experience. Those of us who believe in ‘progress’ are often shocked to realize that we cycle back to primitive behaviors on a regular basis. Those of us who think we live once and die to nothingness cannot explain consciousness using a materialist paradigm. How many times do we say things like, “I can’t believe I did that,” as if the person who did ‘that’ were someone else? We talk about ourselves all the time as different people in time; hence the reminder note for the future self who will forget the priorities of the past self. We all, in practice, recognize that our ‘selves’ are distinct, yet we also know that we are connected by ‘something,’ which is our awareness of ourselves and the world as an eternal reality.

How many panic attacks and relived traumas come from selves that ‘died’ in a moment of extreme suffering? Could our ongoing anxieties have less to do with ‘memory’ and more to do with our free access to other selves who might, on occasion, occupy our spacetime? And what of others who might take advantage of our ‘moment’ to express themselves in our body? The Block Universe fixes all possible events, or our consciousness fixes all possible realities, but in the end, the controls over experience can slip or falter in a number of ways. These ‘glitches’ are built into the fabric of spacetime so that we might be allowed a glimpse into who we really are and how everything works; yet we will never ultimately solve this grand mystery while encased and ensconced in our physical bodies. I will end with beautiful quote by David Fontana in Is There An Afterlife: 

“William James may have been right when he lamented that it rather looks as if the Almighty has decreed that this area should forever retain its mystery. If this is indeed the case, then I assume it is because the Almighty has decreed that the personal search for meaning and purpose in life and in death are of more value than having meaning and purpose handed down as certainties from others. If the certainties of life and death were so well known that they appeared in every school textbooks [sic], there would no longer be scope for the personal search, and for the inner development that may be possible only as a product of such a search.” (327)

Be that as it may, the truth is indeed ‘out there’, and I ask that we all continue to seek it with renewed vigor, especially in dire times where the lack of Light is particularly obvious and painful. We should never forget the role we all play in creating this multiverse and bringing certain realities to the forefront. The future may be written, but we can always edit it for the betterment of all.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Eternalism

I am always cautious about treading in fields where I have no degree. This post starts the discussion of ‘time’, which entails references to entropy (the Second Law of Thermodynamics), the arrow of time illusion, quantum uncertainty, the Special Theory of Relativity and multiple, philosophical considerations harking back to Plato and Aristotle. It should be clear that I am not about to tackle any of the above in depth, as that would entail writing a book and taking multiple, advanced mathematics courses; that is not the purpose of Soulbank. The purpose of Soulbank is to consider broadly theories of reality and consciousness that might explain ‘paranormal’ events to readers who are primarily interested in anomalous experiences. In order to do that, we MUST dive into the topic of time. Without the notion of (or the belief in) time passing, there is no death; without death, there is no afterlife to consider. Perhaps life, the ‘after’ life and death are simultaneous, yet we experience them as sequential. That is, more or less, what I hope to discuss here. The space where ghosts reside might be the same space where we reside; we are experiencing a difference because the human brain is wired that way. That does not mean that there is, in reality, a difference.

Let’s start with some key ideas regarding our perception of time passing and see how they might be connected.

  • There is no inherent ‘beforeness’ or ‘afterness’ of events. Events that one individual perceives as having occurred before or after another are relative to the observer. If an observer is moving through space at a different speed than the individual perceiving an event, when event X took place will vary (Special Theory of Relativity). One’s position and movement in space will alter the perception of when an event has happened.

This places special emphasis on the individual consciousness observing events in time. The person watching events unfold is organizing and ‘collapsing’ all the possibilities in spacetime down to the measurement that the observer has chosen. How can one measure when an event happened? You could say: Event X happened 20 years ago; or, X happened before Y, but after Z; or Event X occurred a little while ago; Event X happened on October 2nd, 1982 at 5:30 PM; or, Event X will happen shortly. There are many, many ways to place an event in time, all of which are language and observer dependent. Some events require the agreement of a broad community of observes as to when in time they occurred, and most academic disciplines require a consensus on this issue in order to teach the history of the discipline. I must be able to state that Cervantes wrote Don Quijote in 1605 as a stable, unchanging fact in order for my discipline (Modern Languages) to have an authoritative story to tell that is passed on to students, who in turn will pass on the information to others, thereby cementing this fact again and again for the canon of Spanish literature.

Authority and consensus, then, become the determining factors for what is accepted as true. I can say that I saw a mountain lion in my backyard at 3:00 PM last Thursday, but if I am the only one who witnessed this event, others can only take it on faith that it happened when I said it did, according to accepted time measurement standards. However, nobody in the Western world of a certain age and education will deny that George Washington was the first president of the United States, and that his term ran from 1789 to 1797. HOWEVER . . .

Just because we agree on the dates does not mean that the dates or the time referred to has an independent existence in the past. Remove the observer(s), and you remove the reality of the event. An event may ‘happen,’ but without human consciousness fixing it in a time frame, there is no time dependent reality to it. The event happened, but when it happened depends on our system of measurement.

Natural processes—more importantly, our perception of natural processes—are determined by the progressive disorder and dispersal of particles in a closed system. An example of this that fascinates me is aging. We all watch ourselves grow, age, and eventually die (I believe the ‘watcher’ is not the same as the ‘experiencer’). One of the biggest questions we face as humans is why we age in the first place. It appears that our telomeres degrade and shorten, which sets off a chain reaction of biological damage that the body cannot repair quickly enough. That damage results in all the external and internal signs of aging: wrinkles, sagging skin, organ failure, cancers, and all manner of disease and infirmity. This seems to happen over time, quite consistently. In fact, using our measurement tools, we can say with some certainty at what age certain illnesses are likely to show up and when your crow’s feet will exceed one millimeter in depth. We have hitched our conscious measurement of time passing to the natural effects of entropy in the body. We measure time as a biological process that takes us from birth to death; what we are measuring is ENTROPY, and entropy is not a fundamental property of the physics underlying our reality:

“But if we look in detail at these arrows, they seem to all boil down to the thermodynamic arrow: entropy increases. Systems in states of low entropy evolve to be in states of higher entropy. If a room starts neat, with everything piled up in one corner, eventually things will be spread out all over. This is the celebrated second law of thermodynamics that the entropy of an isolated system increases until the entropy is at a maximum.

And since the universe started at the Big Bang in a state of low entropy (everything piled up into one corner) the Big Bang becomes “the Mother of all Arrows of Time”. The directionality of time that we see is a side effect of the initial conditions of the universe, not something fundamental.”
–John Ashmead

 

Let me pause to let that sink in. The directionality of time is a “side effect of the initial conditions of the universe, not something fundamental.” In other words, we have ordered, organized and understood our lives based on a notion of time passing that is NOT FUNDAMENTAL TO REALITY. We correlate aging and death with time passing because it always seems to work that way, yet what we are actually doing is making entropy our time-measurement tool. Aging and death do not define time passing; they correlate to a side effect of an event that happened very, very far away. However, entropy as viewed from the point of view of nature (and the following are my ideas only, subject to revision and criticism as needed) appears to be a self regenerating process; it doesn’t move forward inexorably, but renews itself and plays out the low to high cycle again and again. All of nature—including us, since we are a part of this system on the material level—moves through cycles and seasons. This circular nature of material reality might have its parallel in time. If time also moves in cycles of renewal and regeneration, then it would be following what entropy appears to be doing: allowing for the infinite recreation of forms. Time and entropy are not then moving relentlessly forward, but moving in regenerative cycles that allow for new realities to appear. Perhaps entropy really isn’t important here as a definition or explanation for time, but simply important for our perceptions. Yet, if we wish to move beyond perceptions, then we need to stop referring to an illusory arrow of time, arbitrarily linking it to entropic aging, and start thinking about more fundamental ways in which events happen in or out of ‘time’.

  • Here’s another quote from John Ashmead: “In his  Time and the Inner Future: A Temporal Approach to Psychiatric Disorders, Frederick Melges, a practicing psychiatrist, discusses at length the connections between problems with time perception (of duration, of sequence, of the relationship between past, present, and future) and various psychiatric disorders – schizophrenia, depression, mania, paranoia, and others. Melges quotes a paranoid physicist saying:  “Time has stopped, there is no time… The past and the future have collapsed in to the present, and I can’t tell them apart.” Given that this statement is also is essentially a description of the block universe view, it appears that there is only a single step from our mathematics to madness!  Care will be required.”

Past, present and future are effects of human consciousness, according to the “Block Universe” theory of events. We have to perceive events as happening in a sequence, or we would go insane, seeing all possible events and outcomes as happening right now. It is unsettling to think that those suffering from these various disorders of human perception are actually witnessing the universe as it actually is; but it makes clear why we see time the way we do. We can only process information sequentially and partially. We cannot ‘take in’ more information than our brain has equipped us to handle. If we do, the result is an inability to function in this world. Neuroscience has demonstrated that we filter and block information in order for us to focus on what is important and necessary, often a function of serving the needs of the predator. If you are hunting something, your peripheral vision fades away as unnecessary. By the same token, you need to order your experiences into before, now, and after or risk information overload. Our need to order experience in a temporal sequence is a function of biology, not of fundamental reality. We consistently confuse our needs as animals with the true nature of spacetime. What was, what is and what will be are always already ‘out there,’ but our consciousness orders events a particular way: tied to entropy. There are other ways we could organize events, but Western culture has chosen entropy. We can’t assume that all cultures at all ‘times’ have used entropy in this fashion. Aging and death as the ultimate tools for time measurement is probably culturally specific.

  • “It is the act of observing the universe that triggers its time evolution. . . If nobody is looking, the Universe can be in any of the possible arrangements: it is only when observed that one, and only one of them is picked up. At this point, the Second Law kicks in, generating the arrow of time. It may not be just a coincidence that one of the basic properties of consciousness is to tell the past from the future of an observer.” –Riccardo di Sipio

This quote fascinates me, as it combines the Second Law, the arrow of time and consciousness. Instead of the “Big Bang” setting off the arrow, it’s our conscious mind that creates the Second Law, therefore creating past, present and future. We collapse the wave function of an eternalized ‘when’ into before, now or after by simply measuring time. Again, we create time by measuring or observing it. If we create time, can we stop it? If we stop it, can we then thwart the process of entropy and therefore never die? That seems unlikely for material bodies and the natural world. Entropy will always destroy and create, create and destroy; the trick is not to perceive yourself as a lump of material subject to dispersal. If consciousness is not part of the natural world of bodies and materials, then it is not subject to entropy. If consciousness is not subject to entropy, then it does not disperse into randomness. It remains intact, organizing and ordering experience. Death would be another event in the natural world that requires understanding and temporal ordering by a consciousness that has been engaged in that activity all along.

If entropy is not time, if consciousness triggers the universe and time evolution, if consciousness IS THE FUNDAMENTAL PROPERTY OF REALITY, then material processes are incidental and malleable. If material processes are incidental and malleable, then even if all events are ‘out there’ to be ordered by us, those events are still subject to alteration by consciousness. There are many ways to interpret what we call ‘past events’ (or, events that we have access to via memory and a consensus community) and many ways to experience ‘future events’ (or events that we do not have access to in this present moment). One of the big objections to the block theory of time or Eternalism is that there is no room for free will; yet, I don’t see why not.

If the past, the present and the future are already ‘out there,’ and only require our collective and personal consciousness to call them into order, that doesn’t mean that the events of ‘yesterday’ and ‘tomorrow’ are written in stone. They are more like a cloud of possibilities that we collapse into one choice, one reality. We can do this on a personal level, or we can do this on a collective level: the consensus community might operate via quantum entanglement, all of us instantaneously calling up the reality that makes sense for our need to organize, understand, sequence and create history via narrative.

For now, the takeaway is that consciousness cannot be relegated to the world of material bodies and so identified with them that it believes it ceases to exist via the properties of entropy. That isn’t just some New Age blog writer with an affinity for ghosts stating that. It’s the converging opinion of some prominent physicists and other scientists (not all, of course, and I’m sure that there are plenty of physicists out there happy to shoot me down).

For those of you looking for how the preceding understanding of time and events might relate to what we call ‘ghosts,’ that is the subject of the very next post. It’s lunch time. The brain has told me as much, and it’s always a good idea to listen to your brain about such basic needs as eating a cheeseburger.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

 

 

It’s instructive to look at what a culture believes and completely deconstruct it. I find that we are lied to by the dominant culture on a regular basis; social media, media in general, all the images and words that we process in infinite doses teach us a version of reality which, I suspect, is skewed at best and completely false at worst.

One of the biggest assumptions that we carry around with us concerns the afterlife. You are taught to fall into two camps: the ‘scientist,’ who believes there is no rational basis for a belief in the continuation of consciousness, or the ‘believer’ who is either following a religious doctrine based on faith and ancient scripture or the ‘New Ager’ who has dragged the consciousness raising, flower power philosophies of the 1960s and 1970s into the present day. In the latter cases, you are considered by academics, intellectuals and amateur, ghost hunting ‘scientists’ nominally following a method, to be gullible or simply ignorant.

Is the choice really a scriptural ‘Heaven’, total obliteration or some fuzzy ‘white light’ scenario where you are kindly judged by a benevolent God who gently leads you into a non-denominational paradise where your loved ones await you? Do any of these versions make sense of the life you are living? For me, these are not real alternatives but fantasies generated by tradition or desire. I see things quite differently. For one, I tend to think that Heaven and Hell were always meant to be allegorical, describing a state of mind rather than a state of being ‘somewhere else.’ We create Hell on Earth on a regular basis. In fact, it is relatively easy to find Hell if you listen to the news or frequent social media sites. As you navigate the photos of starving children, abused and beaten dogs and melting ice populated with dying polar bears, it seems that God took off a long time ago.

Unless Hell is right here, right now. Why are some of us in Hell when others are so close to Heaven? I don’t know. Maybe God is watching to see what we do. Do we ignore evil in all of its forms? Do we make an attempt, no matter how seemingly futile, to provide comfort and aid?

If Hell is here, surely Heaven is, too. We know that when we hold our child or sleep surrounded by our devoted pets or when we simply contemplate the stunning beauty of nature. Both Hell and Heaven are states of mind that lead to states of being. We can visit both places whenever we want. Sometimes, you can visit Hell simply with one, destructive, pernicious thought. The opposite applies, too.

The Afterlife is not After. It is right here, right now, all of the time. Death, that big, scary concept that keeps us all running in a million directions attempting to evade or outwit it, is a minimal experience that has deluded us all. I remember death. I revisit past deaths in dreams. I have a repeating dream where I realize that I am about to die, and I experience all the terror of the death, usually the one where a giant wave sweeps me out to sea and drowns me. The fascinating aspect of those dreams is that after I die, I realize that I didn’t die. There is this huge sense of relief of having endured the physical death only to come out of it as alive, or more so, that I was before. The second life is completely devoid of fear. I realize that death is an experience, but not a final reality. When I realize this in these repeated dreams, I also feel that I wasted most of my life fearing something that didn’t change anything about me at all.

Piecing together dreams and memories of before I was born, it seems that we ‘wake up’ to a very similar reality with exactly the same identity and personality blueprint. The circumstances are different. But I am the same. Or, as Ortega y Gasset put it, “Yo soy yo y mis circunstancias” (I am myself and my circumstances). I find this to be the most succinct and perfect way of understanding identity. You have always been, and always will be, you; only your backdrop changes. The fact that I can’t explain how this works–whether this is reincarnation, transmigration of souls, or something else–does not invalidate it. There are some things you know on the deepest level of your soul, at the level of your basic humanity, in the blueprint that God (or Spirit) created and that you spend lifetimes attempting to figure out.

There is this deeper reality that invalidates death. I think we all know that it’s there, like a memory that we intuit but can’t capture, an experience we had but can’t put into words. It’s that feeling when you walk down a street you have never seen in this life, yet you can predict every landmark around the bend. It’s when you know something before it happens. It is also when time seems to be the strangest illusion of all, always appearing to move forward, even as you float in a matrix of eternity.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

When Things Go Wrong

eyeSometimes, things go wrong, as they did today. My question is, where is the message hidden? What can we learn?

I woke up after a night of terrible allergies and irritated eyes. I grabbed the Visine and placed one drop in the left eye and several drops in the right eye, because it was more inflamed. About five minutes or so later, I noticed something odd about my vision. The right eye seemed to be letting in much more light than it should. My vision was blurry and odd. I looked in the mirror and my right pupil had dilated while my left was small.

First thought: stroke. Second thought: tumor. Third thought: concussion. Fourth thought: neurological disease. I cried and lamented while my husband rushed me to the Emergency Room.

Once there, several opinions where tossed about. “You need a brain scan ASAP”; “you have tremendous ocular pressure; something is wrong”; and so forth. As it turns out, the doctor was quite calm and stated that the nurse practitioner’s recommendation for a brain scan was unnecessary, since–as I now know–Visine can dilate pupils. I did not know that. Now I do. They patched up my right eye and sent me to my ophthalmologist. I noticed that my left eye was losing vision, unable to see on its own. That sent me back down the rabbit hole of anxiety. At the end of this visit, the doctor said that I have two chronic eye conditions, but no tumor, no stroke, no neurological disease and no issues with high pressure around the eye. Turns out, I have blepharitis and chronic allergic conjunctivitis, both easily treated.

I wondered if my huge overreaction to this issue was about something else. After all, in the car I was crying and declaring that I didn’t want to die yet, I wasn’t ready, I didn’t want to be severely disabled, I need to see in order to teach, and so on. The level of anxiety was so high that I wondered if I was going to pass out at any moment. I have learned that one’s symptoms are often expressions of both something physical and something emotional. I understand the physical cause, even though I have used Visine for decades with no ill effect, but what could the emotional cause be?

I became too sensitive to see the world around me. I was out of balance. One eye was taking in too much information. Lately, I have inundated myself with scary news stories about our new Commander in Chief. I have become frightened to the point of incapacity. I HAVE SEEN TOO MUCH and my eyes hurt. I literally can’t see any more of this. I am out of balance: one eye sees things for what they are, and the other sees everything that is coming and opens too wide. If your eyes are wide open, you are expressing shock, fear, horror at what is coming: the wide open eye and dilated pupil see the future.

This incident allowed me to cancel plans with people I know who see the world very differently from me. How they “see” and how I “see” creates conflict and pain. With my dilated eye, I don’t have to “see” them and deal with the ramifications of our differences. Our visions for ourselves, our families and our worlds do not intersect. And yet, somehow, they have to; if not, we will be as two eyes viewing separate realities.

And then, we will be blind.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

I received a couple of comments from someone who is scared. She is an investigator who feels that she has lost something in the process of contacting the spirit world: she worries that it might be part of her soul. This is a valid concern, and I will try to address it.

There are times when we wonder if we are ‘oppressed’ by a spirit who seeks to harm us. I have wondered that in the past; in fact, there are a couple of entries here on soulbank where I worked through my terror at feeling that someone unholy and powerful was attempting to take over my mind and emotions. Do I think this is possible? Yes, I do. However, I don’t think that any spirit can accomplish this completely without our conscious consent. If we have not specifically invited evil in, then we will not become possessed.

I am thinking here of the rite of exorcism and the priests that work to rid people of demonic entities. There are a couple of points that exorcists make on a regular basis: very few people are truly possessed, and those that are have almost always given their consent to the evil spirit in one way or another. This is why I caution against using any instrument that turns you into a channel or conduit for the spirit world. It is difficult to control who will ‘use’ you to spread their message. I was watching a documentary on Malachi Martin the other night, exorcist and author of the very famous HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL, and I learned through multiple interviews with him and other exorcists that there are signs of possession that we can ‘read’ in ourselves or others, and almost no one needs to worry about this. The most important sign is someone ‘turning on a dime,’ changing from a normal, decent human being to something suddenly sinister and completely out of character. It’s as if the veil of normalcy and kindness dropped for a moment, and the evil displays itself through their eyes in a flash. I’m not talking about having a temper or suffering from a mood disorder; I’m talking about that person who seems completely normal one moment and quickly morphs into something cruel, inhuman, vile and terrifying. The moment doesn’t last long, but it can be perceived by others. This does not happen to 99% of the people who are concerned for their soul.

If you are worried about attachments, spirit influence, or demonic interference in your life, here is a list of what needs to happen:

1) STOP INVESTIGATING the paranormal until you are 100% certain that you are fully yourself. If you’re not sure, don’t do it.

2) Realize that spirits can influence us, but that we are more powerful. A spirit with ill intent can be rebuffed and removed from our lives, but we need help. Talk to your church, synagogue or mosque leader and tell that person everything. Find spiritual support from those who do that for a living. If you don’t have anyone, go find someone at your local church. DON’T DELAY. Make the appointment, and tell them exactly what you fear has happened without reservation.

3) Continue to pray and know that God is always there and always listening. We can’t always feel inspired and filled with divine love. That doesn’t mean that we are not loved and protected. We are. It is fear and depression that drive away divine love, not God.

4) Fear and depression are more responsible for feeling ‘oppressed’ and not ourselves than anything to do with demons or bad spirits. What I read in you is depression. That is often the root cause of the feelings you describe. Regular, old dead people who weren’t all that nice in life and are still nasty in death will jump on that low aura and take advantage of it to express themselves. For some souls, depression is a beacon, something they like to attach to. YOU ARE STILL MORE POWERFUL than they are, because you still have God. You can pray for them as you pray for yourself.

5) Seek therapy. Find a good support system with your friends. Make sure that you do NOT investigate until this works itself out. Go bowling. Sit in cafes and libraries. Join a Meetup group. Get out of the house. Sit in the sun. Take long walks. Pet your animals. If you have no animals, go adopt one. Remember that this life is for the living. You are the living. Leave the dead alone.

6) If you are worried about the state of your soul, if you are concerned that you are not feeling the presence of God as you would like to or need to, YOU ARE NOT POSSESSED OR OPPRESSED. You are a normal human being who is seeking greater connection to the Divine. You can and will find that connection again. You need to speak to a spiritual counselor and get involved in your local religious community. Take care of those who are in need. Find a way to improve the life of someone who needs you.

You are loved and you are never, ever alone. God does not abandon those who love, those who seek, those who never give up. Your feelings of ‘spiritual dryness’ are normal and will go away when you take the steps I have recommended. Be patient and don’t worry.

Give the spirit world a rest and work on enjoying the beautiful life that we have been given to enjoy, right here, right now.

With much love,

Kirsten A. Thorne, PHW/PhD

Want to hear something scary? There is a growing consensus in the psychiatric community that some cases of mental illness are caused by malignant spirits taking over a mind. Richard Gallagher trained in psychiatry at Yale University and is a practicing psychoanalyst and . . . exorcist. Although the vast majority of those practicing mental health care refuse to believe in the reality of demons affecting one’s mind, Dr. Gallagher is ” . . . pleasantly surprised by the number of psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners nowadays who are open to entertaining such hypotheses. Many believe exactly what I do, though they may be reluctant to speak out.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/07/01/as-a-psychiatrist-i-diagnose-mental-illness-and-sometimes-demonic-possession/?utm_term=.b5895e67d890)

I’ve written before about possession and exorcism, and the insights I gleaned from my meeting with a Catholic priest who is also an exorcist. In that meeting, I received his blessing to assist in such work. I have yet to truly throw myself into this vital, spiritual work, a fact which may explain my current state of mind (I’m wasting my talents, truth be told, as are so many of us who study the ‘paranormal’). However, the topic of this post is slightly different. Many of us–scholars or not, mental health experts or not–agree based on the evidence that demonic possession is a reality for an unfortunate few. What I don’t see discussed as much in academic circles is the reality of possession by non-demonic entities.

Once you admit the possibility that an evil entity, a dark spirit, can and does take over a body, mind and soul, then you must admit that the same phenomena can occur with beings that are not demonic in nature. If it is possible for a demon to possess a living person, then it is possible for any person in spirit to do the exact, same thing via a similar mechanism. Exactly how this happens is unknown to me, but I hypothesize that you must be in a vulnerable state: altered by drugs or alcohol, severely depressed and/or anxious, inviting such contact via ouija boards, channeling, automatic writing or (it must be said) so-called ‘ghost hunting’. If you are a spiritually grounded person with a strong religious practice and belief, you are more protected from the invading spirit; however, those of us who dabble in spirit contact are most definitely at risk. The reality of this possibility is what is at the heart of our gradual decline in time spent investigating the paranormal, which seems to happen to all of us. It isn’t that we don’t believe it after years of spirit contact, it’s that we discover how powerful these connections are, and we realize how much that contact affects us emotionally and spiritually.

Spirits, souls, conscious beings, are in contact with us on a daily basis. Most mediums talk about the ‘veil’ that separates the living and the ‘dead’; this language is reflected in theories of the multiverse and other ‘theories of everything’ that postulate multiple dimensions. Dr. Robert Lanza’s ideas concerning death and multiple dimensions go a step further: not only does consciousness continue in other dimensions, ‘death’ as a concept is meaningless. It essentially doesn’t exist except as a description of a mundane, physical process which has no bearing on the conscious, individual human being. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/is-there-an-afterlife-the-science-of-biocentrism-can-prove-there-is-claims-professor-robert-lanza-8942558.htmlWhatever it is that separates multiple dimensions, whether it be vibrating strings or dark matter, the systems of separation are not perfect and break down. Or, more tantalizingly, WE can break them down through mental effort and meditative practice. Once the boundaries of a multiverse are breached, we can’t keep whoever is living there ‘out’ of our reality. Their energy flows through, finds us, penetrates our consciousness and plays out its need for communication or emotion.

In simple terms, our interaction with what we call ‘ghosts’ often results in spirits finding a receptive home to express themselves through us.  This explains many mysteries and questions of mine that up to now, seem to have no answer. Boundaries are broken down between dimensions, and our easy classification of ourselves as one being, one spirit, in isolation from all others, disintegrates. We are all interconnected and affect one another in ways both subtle and obvious. Therefore, to provide an example, a haunted house story is not a story of a person who discovers ghosts, but of ghosts who discover a person and the beginning of a relationship where all entities rely on each other’s energy and emotion. When you enter into an emotional relationship with the spirits around you, the ‘haunting’ isn’t about the ‘other,’ it’s about all parties involved. You may not realize that your persistent, depressed mood or your strange reactions to familiar situations have to do with someone else living in you, with someone else sharing your psychic space.

Is that possession? It’s probably more ‘influence’ or even relationship. If you have ever felt an inexplicably strong connection to a house or other place, it is likely that you are experiencing the effects of your intimate interaction with the spirits you’ve come to know quite well there, even if not consciously. Much of this phenomena is experienced in the subconscious mind, where our ego and super ego (to borrow from Freud for a moment) expend much energy repressing, denying and fleeing from the truth of our spiritual attachments and engagements. How much of what we feel, what we do, how we react to other people, how we live our lives, has to do with spiritual relationships of which we are hardly aware? That is a sobering question.

There are things I need to know, but the process of understanding frightens me. I would like to know the identity of the spirits who live with me or interact with me. I would like to separate myself just a little more from their influence. That requires an investigation into other dimensions of reality and that, in turn, requires a professional medium of great talent and respectability. That is more than likely the next step for me. It is not easy for me to trust other people, especially people who interpret in my stead what my reality might be. I have always despised that trait in others: the individual who pretends to know more than you about your own life. However, I do believe that trustworthy mediums exist and can shed light on the spiritual mystery that surrounds us all. Of course, those of us who regularly attend church in the Christian tradition understand that this spirit world is all around us at all times, effecting changes and transitions of which we are barely aware. The church, however, tries hard to manage, limit and interpret our spiritual experiences so that they do not fall outside the accepted boundaries of Scripture. I need more than that.

Think about the ways that your spirit interacts with others, both in the flesh and transcendent. If there are no boundaries to spirit, and we are all spirit, then to speak of ‘containers’ of flesh, vibrating strings, dark matter, conscious and subconscious, is all a waste of time. The categories ‘dead’ and ‘living’ are nonsensical when you’re are speaking of souls and not of matter. Just as the spirit of your nasty boss can harm you, so can the spirit of the guy who drowned himself in your bathtub years before you moved into your house. The charge, then, is to be more aware, more conscious, of who is affecting your heart, mind and soul, and where you need to draw the line on a psychic invasion. It would be wise to start with meditation and prayer. But I don’t plan to end there.

Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHWkirsten-in-2017

Dr. Alan Hugenot is a medium who is also an engineer and a classically trained physicist. I don’t like long quotes, but if I’m going to reference someone as an authority on something as important as life after death, make sure that your readers know who this person is. Here is his own bio on LinkedIn, but you should read more on your own:

alainhugenot

Dr. Hugenot is a semi-retired, Naval Architect & Marine Engineer, who often works as an expert witness in maritime cases. After surviving a Near-Death experience in 1970 which occurred during a 12 hour coma, he has made a 45 year, scientific study of Consciousness Survival and Evidential Mediumship. The NDE “opened” his consciousness to intuitive communications, and after completing studies with the Morris Pratt Institute (NSAC), and Arthur Findlay College of Psychic Science (SNU), He currently serves as research medium with the Consciousness Research Lab at IONS (Noetic.org) with Dr. Dean Radin, Ph.D and Dr. Arnaud Delorme, Ph.D, and also with Dr. Gary Swartz (University of Arizona). He currently serves on the Board of Directors for both the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS.org) and the Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies (ASCSi.org). He is fascinated with parapsychological science and the physics of consciousness, consciousness survival in an afterlife, mediumship, remote viewing, and out of body experiences. Trained in classical Newtonian physics, but having also experienced the phenomena of consciousness survival and out-of-body consciousness, he realizes that our materialist paradigm is an extremely restricted aperture for viewing the larger reality of the Conscious Universe, yet he also comprehends the skeptic’s perceptive difficulty that, “Consciousness survival can never be observed unless the observer first infers that it could be possible”. He speaks several times each month at various conferences on Death, Consciousness Survival and Mediumship Science in North America at local IONS and IANDS groups and at various Unity and Spiritualist churches. He also holds workshops on Evidential Mediumship. He is available, by prior arrangement, to speak and hold workshops throughout Europe and the British Commonwealth.

What I like about Dr. Hugenot: He made a decision to become medium via intense study and preparation, discarding the notion that the scientist or the observer must keep herself at a skeptical distance in order to draw conclusions or gather evidence about survival of consciousness. The preponderance of the evidence is in favor of the existence of ‘discarnate entities’ who communicate with us via signs, direct voice, writing, channeling and other means. It is NOT that we don’t have enough evidence to support our beliefs in the afterlife; the issue is that we can’t convince the majority of the scientific community to examine the evidence because they refuse to consider the question. If you refuse, a priori, to study the evidence because it concerns an issue that requires you to abandon materialism, then you cannot convince a skeptic. Oddly enough, this has led to an anti-scientific attitude among the materialists, since they will not consider the results of studies carried out at universities and government agencies that followed scientific protocol. Dr. Hugenot joins the ranks of Dr. Morse, Dr. Stevens, Dr. Mona Schultz, Dr. Parnia and so many others who have found reasonable grounds for accepting the continuation of consciousness. We need to be reminded: science has not proven that consciousness arises from brain function, an assumption upon which materialists rely.

Another fascinating theory that Dr. Hugenot proposes: the ‘near death’ experience is an actual ‘death experience.’ Therefore, the question of reincarnation has been solved: if you return to your body after you died (Dr. Sam Parnia discusses this in depth–he has resuscitated patients who he considered dead–no less dead than those who don’t return to their bodies), you HAVE REINCARNATED. Not, clearly, into another body, but back into the one you had before. That fact alone is enough to upend any thinking person’s world view. Several of us wandering around right now have returned to our bodies after death. We have reincarnated. If we could do it once, why could we not do it again in a different body?

There is much more that you need to hear. Go to his page and listen to the videos. They might just change your life.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD