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Posts Tagged ‘ghost’

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

 

 

 

 

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Robert Lanza, MD

 Author’s note: I’m writing this in bits and pieces, which seems appropriate to the topic. Since I wrote the body of the paper, I posted a query on Facebook regarding time and entropy, and received some great responses and leads. I’ve dutifully read and considered the responses and followed up the recommendation to read Sean Carroll’s website. I did, in fact, slog through great sections of From Eternity to Here, but I confess that I felt, at times, overwhelmed by the content. I must revisit the book and read it again more carefully. Also, I checked reviews for Biocentrism and was dismayed by the sheer nastiness of many people purporting to “critique” his work. More often than not, reviewers—scientists and non-scientists alike—were unbearably nasty and disrespectful to the author. A notable exception is Richard Conn Henry’s quick overview (http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/biocentrism.pdf) where he points out factual errors in Lanza’s physics, but ends up agreeing with his major tenets. Otherwise, there was much Lanza bashing out there, boiling down to the fact that anyone who seeks to merge any kind of spirituality into the study of the universe is a complete, babbling New Age idiot enamored of bad science and bewitched by ‘woo’. Sigh. My entire website would be bashed mercilessly for the same reason. I am not a scientist, but I do have a sharp, critical mind honed by decades of reading and study, helped along by a Yale Ph.D in literature and culture. That doesn’t matter at all for those with degrees in the sciences, which apparently gives many critics license to disembowel you with sarcasm and contempt. However, if you try to do something really big—like explain the universe and its workings as related to human consciousness—you’re bound to upset people. What interests me, of course, is how all of this relates to life after death, or to the survival of consciousness unfettered from the animal, so to speak. If you will kindly bear with me as I first discuss the general implications of Lanza’s work, I will address the issue of EVPs and evidence for the afterlife right afterwards. I promise.

I tried. I really did. I’ve slogged through so many ‘popular’ books on quantum mechanics and Theories of Everything that I’ve lost count. The latest one was Dr. Robert Lanza’s Biocentrism. I have not finished the book yet, but I’m close. I’ve made it through six of the basic tenets or precepts of his theory. I thought this biocentric view—in which living things create all reality according to their perceptions and perspective–was pretty amazing, but I was troubled by the need to obliterate objective reality in favor of one entirely dependent on us. He explained why it is when you kick a tree, it hurts—it’s not because the tree has any objective reality, it’s simply a complex reaction between wave-functions of the tree that have collapsed into ‘thing that causes pain’, or something like that. I confess, it’s a little murky to me. I lay awake last night wondering how Dr. Lanza would explain why it is that a tree could fall on us and kill us, even though we never looked at it, never ‘collapsed’ it into reality or filtered it through our sensory systems.

I then wondered why it is that we all agree to such a large extent on what constitutes outside reality (assuming, as I’m afraid I still do, that such a thing exists) and to what we are referring when we use language. I suppose Dr. Lanza would say that a community of human animals agrees on illusory external realities because we all process information in a similar way: we’re built from the same ‘stuff’, so to speak. Then, just because I thought it would be fun to fret over this until 4 AM, I questioned the entire time issue. Of course, time is relative, and I do understand that on a layperson’s level. If you’re shot out into space and travel at a certain speed, you will age more slowly than your counterparts on Earth. There is even a formula to determine this. What upsets me about time is its relation to aging, to ‘entropy’, I think, if one can equate the two. We assume that as we age, time is passing; somehow, time is responsible for wrinkles and bad knees. Dr. Lanza says that the very notion of time is illusory, created by humans to make sure we can get to the office on time and function in a capitalist society (those are my words regarding the office and capitalism). Simply because we measure something does not mean that it exists in any objective sense or in any sense at all. Clocks are solely for convenience; as the author claims, we could measure the same thing by melting ice cubes or sunsets or tides.

So why, then, do we age and die as all biological things are wont to do? Dr. Lanza maintains that where we see progressive change there is really only a series of present moments that we link together and pretend form some kind of coherent trajectory from past to present to future. I think we all accept that the past and future don’t really ‘exist’ in any meaningful sense; the past lives only through memory of it (and we all know how tricky and deceptive memory is; even if we could remember everything ‘perfectly,’ we still don’t know what it is that we are remembering—certainly nothing material, nothing we can point to) and the future hasn’t happened yet, so by definition it has no objective existence either. This eternal present has always terrified me, because it rips me out of context. I think our author would say that ‘context’ is just the human animal’s way of making sense of things that aren’t there. That’s the problem. The previous statement doesn’t mean anything, yet that’s what Dr. Lanza is saying. Back to the aging and dying issue: all of humans experience this trajectory, whether or not ‘time’ exists. It seems to me that if we all share this path, always, without exception, then something ‘like’ time is happening to us. We don’t have to call it time, but we have to call it something. Here’s a quick and concise definition of entropy:

“Entropy is a measure of order and disorder. If left alone, aging systems go spontaneously from youthful, low entropy and order to old, high entropy and disorder”. (http://www.worldscibooks.com/popsci/p597.html)

So if entropy is responsible for aging and ultimately what we call ‘death’, then what is entropy’s relationship to time? If time is a human-made illusion, then what is killing us? The key word in the quote above is ‘spontaneously’. That word, by definition, indicates that a process is occurring without resorting to the passage of time. How is it that aging can occur ‘spontaneously’? If it is not a process, and doesn’t the word ‘process’ indicate something occurring over time, then what the heck is it? I’m afraid that Dr. Lanza cannot say that time is purely illusory when biological systems age and die due to a process that we call entropy. His argument against this is interesting, yet in many ways illogical.

He states that what we see as having progressed to a state of entropy is simply another snapshot in the present moment, and what we observe is change from one present moment to another present moment; it’s only our interpretation that sees a progression or superimposes a pattern or value judgment. In other words, aging is an assumption we make when faced with changes in the human organism. Those changes result from an illusory past in the first place. If time doesn’t happen, then change doesn’t either; therefore, nothing we observe is a result of a change. We don’t, however, live in the eternal present. I would argue that we can’t. Does it make sense that we could possibly understand life as one present moment after another and then death? We can’t think that way, so if that’s the way “things really are,” then what’s the point if we can’t make that conceptual leap? The Theory of Everything makes no sense if we can’t live it or even fully grasp it.

I have to finish the entire book before I get to the implications of Dr. Lanza’s theory. If life creates consciousness and consciousness creates the universe and everything in it, we are certainly all-powerful. Maybe he is about to say that we are eternal, since nothing that is out of time can possibly cease to exist. OK, so I will take that to mean that my consciousness is boundless and not in any way bound by change (an illusion created by time). However, I know that I will age and die, as evidenced by everything around me succumbing to entropy. So I’m back to square one. My death means something to me, as it does to those who love me. Of course, if Dr. Lanza says that Kirsten will ALWAYS exist, the question is HOW will she always exist? All that which limits my consciousness—including my body, my perceptions, and my brain—is what I know as real. One might TELL me that what I know as real actually isn’t, but that doesn’t change anything for me. You can say that my iced-cream is an illusion that I brought into existence, but in any case, it tastes the same whether it is an external reality or a consciousness-created reality.

The following quote is from Sean Carroll’s web site:

“The first mystery of the arrow of time is that it’s nowhere to be found in the fundamental laws of physics. Those laws work perfectly well if we run processes backwards in time. (More rigorously, for every allowed process there exists a time-reversed process that is also allowed, obtained by switching parity and exchanging particles for antiparticles — the CPT Theorem.) Nevertheless, the macroscopic world we observe is full of irreversible processes. The puzzle is to reconcile microscopic reversibility with macroscopic irreversibility.”

Therein lays the issue, the knot: what happens on a microscopic level—including, of course, the quantum level—is apparently NOT occurring on the macroscopic level. Photons can behave in bizarre, contradictory and fantastic ways, but that doesn’t mean anything in our large, material world is doing anything remotely like it. Our ‘big’ world seems to function according to the classical laws of physics. There are two possibilities here: we have a fundamental contradiction which can only be resolved when someone—probably a physicist—finds the missing link (something like the debunked notion of the aether) that explains everything (the GUT: Grand Unifying Theory), OR the world on the macroscopic level DOES contain all of the contradictions of the quantum level upon which its existence rests, and we simply haven’t devised the correct experiments to illustrate this correlate. Again from Sean Carroll’s web site:

“Is there any way the arrow of time can be explained dynamically?

I can think of two ways. One is to impose a boundary condition that enforces one end of time to be low-entropy, whether by fiat or via some higher principle; this is the strategy of Roger Penrose’s Weyl Curvature Hypothesis, and arguably that of most flavors of quantum cosmology. The other is to show that reversibilty is violated spontaneously — even if the laws of physics are time-reversal invariant, the relevant solutions to those laws might not be. However, if there exists a maximal entropy (thermal equilibrium) state, and the universe is eternal, it’s hard to see why we aren’t in such an equilibrium state — and that would be static, not constantly evolving. This is why I personally believe that there is no such equilibrium state, and that the universe evolves because it can always evolve. The trick of course, is to implement such a strategy in a well-founded theoretical framework, one in which the particular way in which the universe evolves is by creating regions of post-Big-Bang space-time such as the one in which we find ourselves.”

 So, if the universe were static and eternal, time would be an illusion that we clearly create from a biocentric position. If, however, the universe is constantly evolving, we certainly do need time to account for that. Of course, Lanza would say that the universe is only evolving because we “evolve” it through our perceptions. I think he goes too far, actually. It’s an interesting idea that he presents, but it makes much more sense that the internal/external worlds are in relationship to each other, not that one precludes the other:

“To say that time is not well understood is one thing, but to assert that time is therefore an illusion seems unfounded to me. When forced to summarize his conclusion, he (page 111) backtracks from the bolder statements and writes only that: “Time does not have a real existence outside of animal-sense perception. It is the process by which we perceive changes in the universe.” I could add that time is real because mind and change are real.” http://darwiniana.com/2010/02/12/biocentrism-review/

I’m inclined to agree with the author of this quote. We perceive changes in the universe and the passage of time through our ‘animal sense perception,’ but that doesn’t mean that time and change are non-existent properties or phenomena. We need the notion of time for classical physics and we don’t, really (from what I am able to glean) for quantum physics, but again—time appears to be a hypothetical concept in every area of cosmology, necessary but not ‘proven’. Time may not exist, but entropy does, and I feel entropy as growing older and facing biological death. My experience of time leads me to believe that I (and all other living things) am in a constant state of evolution and flux. What might stand apart from that? Consciousness. It is entirely possible that what is in the constant evolutionary state is the material world, not the quantum world. If my consciousness arises from a quantum field, if awareness itself functions according to the rules of the sub-atomic realm, then consciousness is not bound by time and would, theoretically, continue on indefinitely.

Critics would accuse me of bringing ‘dualism’ back into the discussion as an excuse to save the notion of a soul. However, I’ve never understood why dualism is such a dirty word for scientists. If we can have a material and a quantum world that function according to different paradigms, then why is it not possible that the ‘human animal’ functions in two entirely different ways as well? Why could we not be both ‘material’ and ‘quantum’? Yes, I realize that no one has proven that consciousness emerges from a quantum field; however, it seems the best explanation that we have right now. Now we can engage in Part Two of this grand discussion, which involves the data that paranormal researchers bring back from their investigations. Yes, I realize that many scientists will stop reading right here and forever turn their backs on soulbank (if they would even look at it to begin with) and everything herein contained, but . . . we DO come back with tantalizing data that is not explained by normal means. I can say that with authority after years of painstakingly sorting through audio, video, ITC sessions and so on. I think that the hypothesis that consciousness occupies the quantum space might explain EVPs and all the other anomalies we bring home and puzzle over.

STAY TUNED.

Kirsten A. Thorne, Ph.D

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Contrary to the title of this picture, I will not discuss what the Bible says about the Devil. I will, however, tell you what my subconscious mind says about him, or her, as the case may be. It was 3:00 AM, and I was not fully asleep when a vision took over my mind. It was not a dream; it had none of the bizarre, disjointed features of a dream. It was a lucid presentation of an event–just how to classify such an event is beyond my skills to describe. Suffice to say that I saw an old, old woman–revealed to be 96 years old, the age of my death as foretold by a gypsy–who approached me, smiling. I was happy to see her at first, until I realized that there was something terribly wrong with this old lady. She grinned at me, up close, and I saw a mouthful of rotten teeth as the stench of her breath hit my face. “I am the Devil,” she hissed, and then lifted her arm and attacked me with a pitchfork, stabbing me again and again in my side.

I knew she had come to take me away, and I was terrified. The vision faded, and I forced myself to fully return to my normal, conscious state. My first thought was: I can’t go out ghost hunting anymore. Pursuing phantoms in the dead of night is messing with my head. My second thought was: I am possessed, or about to be, and I’m scared that I might end up committed at a place quite similar to the one I investigate on a regular basis. Thank God such asylums are not longer legal . . . my third thought: GET THEE TO A YOGA CLASS at the crack of dawn. So away I went, early in the morning, to a yoga class that included a meditation that seemed designed for me and my particular needs (i.e., escaping the Devil). We were instructed to sit across from an image of the Divine and he/she directed a beam of light to explode the dark kernels of fear and bad karma that we had accumulated. Those dark seeds turned to ashes and were blown away by the divine wind of love and unconditional acceptance. All the corners had been illuminated, and I need not fear. I was crying like a child by the end of that meditation, and most importantly, I no longer felt as if the Devil were trying to take my soul.

Ghost hunters are a hardy bunch. We stare death in the face and record what is left over. We listen to hours of audio that might include something we don’t want to hear, and don’t wish to invade our lives. We don’t know what responds to us late at night in the old mental hospital, but we’re OK with that. Most of the time. The last time I was at Cam, Louis captured an EVP that could be life changing–yet again. At the time we heard nothing but the insane, incessant banging of the pipes with their attendant odd after-effects that sometimes seem to carry the voices into the atmosphere. I don’t remember exactly what Louis said, something like “do you remember me?” and the response that we heard, huddled around his digital audio recorder in a courtyard, was: “Is that all you want?” No, it was not vague or distorted; yes, we ALL heard it, and Ty (my husband) verified on video that none of us was talking at the time. It was so clear that we could all identify the words quite easily, without headphones or any audio enhancement programs. The voice was . . . tired, and slightly metallic, and perhaps a little sarcastic. He, whoever this was responding to us, wherever he might be–did not believe that all we wanted was an answer to our usual, repetitive questions. Of course we ask the same things over and over, because we are not engaged in a real conversation–we don’t hear the response until hours, days, or weeks later. The voice appeared to know something that even we do not–no, that is not all we want, we want so much more than to know whether or not you recognize us, or know us, or even what you think about our activities in these hideous hallways . . . we want to know more . . . we want to know if you are really the soul of a dead man, and if so, where the hell are you that you can talk to us, why in the name of all that’s holy are you still at Camarillo, what kind of afterlife is that, and the scariest question of all–is there no Heaven? Because if there’s a Heaven, then why are YOU, whatever you are, STILL HERE, inhabiting one of the worst places on Earth?

If a little girl’s spirit can find itself trapped in a place like this, then what is going to happen to me? What if I happen to die somewhere that I really don’t wish to, such as a hospital or a crappy hospice center somewhere in South Dakota? What about reincarnation? I thought we had a choice. Some of my sappier, New Age tomes on the afterlife talk about the fields of flowers and the Being of Diving Love who reunites us with all the people we loved and who loved us, and it’s one, big party until we have to decide whether or not to move on to Higher Spiritual Realms or choose another life to live on Earth. It’s all good, right?

No, it’s not all good. Sometimes, it’s sad, tragic, upsetting, scary and a touch evil. We don’t know shit about the afterlife, really. Of course, if you are devoutly religious, then you DO know, and I admire your faith and divine knowledge–I mean that sincerely–but if you are unlucky enough to not feel that kind of faith to the marrow of your bones, you go out searching for your own answers.

Sometimes you get laughter and humor.

Sometimes you get confusion and sadness.

Sometimes you get the Devil, and he tries to take your soul.

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Today is Nana’s birthday. She would have been 92 years old today. She died in January, 1999, when she was only 80. There was a time when 80 would have seemed a venerable age; now, with my 70-year-old parents, 80 is not old. It certainly doesn’t seem like the right age to die.

I have tried to hang on to her in various ways over the years. I expected her to visit me in dreams; she did not. I hoped that she would appear at the end of my bed; she never did. I figured that with all the ghost hunting and spirit chasing, she might decide to make contact; my expectations came to nothing. I have talked about her jewelry box before, exclaiming how her perfume is extra strong when I think about her and talk to her—but someone pointed out that the old scent simply accumulates over time when the box is closed, so there’s no mystery there. The more often I open it, the less perfume escapes. I even went so far as to use the IOvilus to attempt to make contact with her—all to no avail.

I swallowed my doubts and consulted a medium in Idyllwild, waiting anxiously for a meaningful message. All she told me was that Nana was completely confused by her death, not expecting it, and felt utterly lost when she passed over. That was not comforting. That did not prove nor disprove anything, but left me with a certain sadness for my grandmother, who never seemed very happy in life, and– if I were to believe the medium–was now lost and overwhelmed by death.

I really did expect, over the last 11 years, that Nana might come back in some form to comfort me, or simply to remind me that she’s still around. The fact that—besides some interesting dreams of other family members—Nana appears to be truly gone, scares me and raises some old specters (pardon the metaphor). I became involved in the paranormal because I wanted to explain to myself, if no one else, why I experienced contact with some people (such as Grandpa Joe) and not others. The person I most wanted to connect with was simply not there. We all fear oblivion, some of us more than others, especially because it turns our lives into hourglasses, a waiting room for death. I don’t believe that nothing remains of us after we pass over—anyone reading soulbank knows that—but I am at a total loss when it comes to understanding the data and making sense of my experience.

The voices I capture during EVP sessions and the messages I get in various ways (IOvilus, mediums, psychics, dreams, etc.) do not point to a coherent picture of the afterlife. In fact, it often seems that messages are fragmented, strange, purposefully cryptic or simply bizarre. Of course, if you look for spirits in places like Camarillo, what do you expect? Even so, it appears to me that what we “capture” are more like echoes and memories than actual lives. Is there a place after death where our identities and memories remain intact? Do we really continue to evolve? To we return to life in a new body? Does it matter that we progress spiritually, or does the same fate await us all?

I just finished a fascinating book by David Kessler: Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms. Apparently, medical personnel (especially nurses and hospice workers) are well aware of the visions their patients experience before death. Many of them are greeted by their deceased loved ones; so many loved ones, in fact, that it’s a common to hear the dying make reference to how crowded the room is. It is all but proven that these visions are not hallucinations,  side effects of drugs or oxygen deprivation. Exactly what is happening is a mystery, of course. Most doctors refuse to believe that what their patients see and experience is “real”; this calls into question the very notion of “real”. If the dying insist that their loved ones are REALLY, TRULY in the room, then who are we to say that they are not? Kessler makes an interesting point in one of his chapters: legally, the words of the dying are given special status in courts of law. In other words, the declarations of the dying are given MORE weight than those who are not actively dying.

If we believe what so many patients report, we certainly do not die alone, and there is a “place”—God knows where (literally)—where everyone we ever loved continues to exist. This seems impossible and fantastic, a true wish-fulfillment fantasy . . . but that doesn’t make it untrue. I wonder, sometimes, if my attempts to call on Nana are somehow forbidden by certain laws of which I am unaware. Perhaps contacting me is the last thing on her list of goals in the afterlife. She knows already that she’ll see me in 51 years (an old gypsy told me I would live until the age of 96), which to her might seem like five minutes. Time, so they say, is irrelevant after death.

But I miss her. I miss her so much that sometimes I simply cannot resist the temptation to see if maybe she will say hello, or tell me that she loved me, or just reassure me that she is fine and even happy. Maybe she would contact me if she knew how sad I am without any grandparents. Maybe she will . . . if I try hard enough.

If she doesn’t, then I still have her little jewelry box with the perfume and my memories; but both are starting to fade with time, and that hurts more than anything.

If you are out there and can read this, I love you Nana. I miss you. I will keep trying to find you. I don’t know what else to do.

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My mother didn’t believe in ghosts until she stayed at the Bella Maggiore Inn. Now, she doesn’t even want to talk about what happened to her in the upstairs sitting room. I’ve never seen my mother so shaken, so upset, and so pale. This was not a pleasant encounter with a benign spirit–this was something terrifying and unforgettable.

The Bella Maggiore Inn in Ventura, CA was once a “flop house” and a brothel. This, of course, was during the 1930s and 1940s. Now, it’s a charming Italianate-style inn with the best breakfast I’ve had in a long, long time. I decided to spend one night of my Spring Break here in the hope I could convince someone to join me and perhaps find some evidence of a haunting. A woman named Sylvia, who had worked here as a prostitute decades ago, hung herself in room 17 (some say room 15, where my parents stayed) over a romantic entanglement. Elsewhere I have read that she was murdered and her killer was never brought to justice. After so long, with the distortions of a story passed down in the great oral tradition of ghost tales, it’s very difficult to know what actually happened. I invited investigators to join me, as well as my parents. To my surprise and delight, not only did my parents join me but so did the two founders of the Southern California Society for Paranormal Research and one additional investigator.

The sitting room on the second floor has what can only be described as a creepy ambiance; you feel as if you are surrounded by something or watched by someone as soon as you walk in. My mother sat in one chair, my father on the love seat next to her, and I on the chair next to him. It was quiet and deserted; we had come back from dinner and were looking for a place to chat. My mother called my sister on her cell phone. They were talking about my nephew and all the new things he has learned how to do, when I noticed my mother’s face change. She seemed both surprised and upset. “Is that you? Do you hear that? Is Connor OK?” she asked, appearing more and more shaken as she spoke. My sister was clearly asking her what she was talking about, my mother was trying to explain, but there was a communication gap. She held the phone away from her, frowned, tried to continue the conversation, but finally couldn’t. She hung up, and I saw that she was shaking. “Someone was screaming on the phone, a woman . . .  it was horrible. She screamed over and over again. It wasn’t interference from the cell phone. I’ve never heard anything like this. It was like someone was murdering her. It was horrible.” She repeated those lines again and again, unable to understand what she had heard, and what it might mean. During her phone call, before I knew what was happening, I felt a chill run up my left side, as if someone were standing there and congealing the atmosphere. The lights flickered and everything felt darker. Even my father was glancing around as if someone had entered the room.

Later, after my mother had calmed down, she crawled into bed early and didn’t want to talk about it anymore. My father looked up a few stories about Sylvia, but she didn’t want to hear them, and I decided that it was time to head to my own room. If someone had hanged herself in the place I supposed to sleep, I wanted to at least run some audio. I found that the EMF meter was behaving strangely in the hallway, but I didn’t feel much in the room itself. I was getting

lonely when Frank and Louis showed up and rescued me from the rather gloomy hotel and took me to dessert at the Busy Bee. Before that, they set up their equipment in my room hoping to catch something. I hoped that they would, and I hoped that they wouldn’t. I was tired, and it was going to be a long night. Kimberly from SCSPR joined us later, and the discussion was lively. I had shaken off the strangeness of the Bella Maggiore, but it was not to last.

We returned to my room and listened to the audio. There was a constant, low-level conversation in the background. It was silent in the hallway, and there was no one in the rooms on either side of me. The male voices were obviously engaged in a significant discussion, yet there was no way to decipher the words. It sounded so far away, decades away, from another place and time. Every now and then one of the male voices would say something I could almost understand, but after straining to hear them for so long, we finally gave up.

We gathered our equipment and headed towards the sitting room where my mother had experienced such horror over the cell phone. We walked in and said hello, as is polite when there are spirits waiting for you. We all heard a response; when we played back the audio, the “Hello” was as clear as day. Our second greeting was also returned, and we captured that as well. A few minutes into the EVP session, Louis asks if anyone has anything to say. We heard no response at the time, but when he played back the audio a male voice said:  “He still loves you.” Three EVPs within minutes of each other is quite rare. Although we investigated the rest of the hotel that night, nothing was as active as that room. We are still reviewing evidence from that night, so it’s possible that we captured more fragments of those lost lives.

“He still loves you.” I don’t know what that means. I don’t think I am going to ever know, since that is the nature of paranormal investigations. You can’t figure out the specifics of the story, only experience the vague and tantalizing after-effects of the lingering spirits. Of course, I ask myself what it is that we found. It occurs to me that sometimes, as “ghost hunters,” we find ourselves at intersections of the tragic and the lost. I suppose that most of the voices are all “residual,” meaning that the imprints of those lives and deaths are embedded like a recording in the very walls of the hotel. The responses we received upon entering the sitting room, however, point to an intelligent entity who could and did respond to visitors.

I don’t like what this implies about life after death. But then again, I know nothing more about the specifics of the afterlife than I did before I started this journey, with the huge exception that SOMETHING survives of us. I have more questions than answers, and some better theories, but I want to know who screamed in terror over my mother’s cell phone, who greeted us as we walked in, and who was carrying on the distant conversations in Room 17. I want to know all this, yet I will never know.

And not knowing will compel me back, to the place, to the time, to the desire to learn more. Someone might decide to tell me something substantive, because they want their story told . . . I can do that, but only if–for the dead–communication with the living  weren’t so much like “standing behind a sheet of frosted glass which blurs sight and deadens sound, [attempting to dictate] feebly to a reluctant and somewhat obtuse secretary” (Wilson 1987: 176). That was the message of the late Frederic Myers, one of the pioneers of the Society for Psychical Research in the late 1800s. In this case, us ghost hunters are the reluctant and somewhat obtuse secretaries, trying desperately to interpret the messages.

But we will never quit trying. The mystery is too great, and the need to know too imperious; and of course, we are happy to cast our lot with the world’s greatest enigma. This is why I close with Louis smiling. At the end of the night, the truth is–we are alive. We can eat apple pie and hot fudge sundaes and review our evidence and write our blog posts. I hope the afterlife permits such pleasures . . . but for some, I know it does not.

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Oh, how I hate reading articles like this one by Steven Pinker (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1580394-1,00.html). Not because they threaten my poor,  all-too-human hope that life continues after death, or we are more than the meat in our brains, but because such articles decide A PRIORI, with no in-depth research into survival of consciousness and no knowledge of the work that was done in this area beginning in the 1800’s with the Society of Psychical Research and continuing today, decide that all studies suggesting survival are flawed, rife with fraud, or impossible because we ALL KNOW, deep down, in our rational minds, that the soul is a silly, primitive fantasy of the undereducated masses and religious zealots. Consider this quote:

“Whatever the solutions to the Easy and Hard problems turn out to be, few scientists doubt that they will locate consciousness in the activity of the brain. For many nonscientists, this is a terrifying prospect. Not only does it strangle the hope that we might survive the death of our bodies, but it also seems to undermine the notion that we are free agents responsible for our choices–not just in this lifetime but also in a life to come. ”

First of all, the idea that only scientists can understand consciousness–or, better said, only neuroscientists–is an elitist assumption by a privileged few. Yes, it’s obvious that neuroscientists are in the best position to understand the workings of the brain, but the assumption that eventually we’ll be able to explain all conscious experience as a function of chemicals and transmitters is NOT JUSTIFIED and not scientific. Declaring that “eventually we’ll solve this problem” is not proof of anything. It is no different from me affirming that “eventually I will be able to prove the existence of the soul, just wait it out and trust me”.

Explaining how the brain works and how its perceptions can be altered by disease, injury, drugs or other factors does not mean that consciousness itself has been “located” in the brain. The article itself uses the analogy of radio transmitters and devices that receive waves: “They [certain brain waves] may bind the activity in far-flung regions (one for color, another for shape, a third for motion) into a coherent conscious experience, a bit like radio transmitters and receivers tuned to the same frequency.” But why must the radios and receivers tuned to the same frequency be necessary IN the brain or a function of the brain? A great deal of work has been done in the field of consciousness studies that suggest that consciousness is EXTERIOR to the brain–you can call this bank or field where consciousness (and perhaps memory) is stored whatever you wish–the fact remains that in order to explain the mysteries of consciousness, you have to look at the brain as the receiver, and the signals it receives as the originator and generator of consciousness. That explains ESP; remote viewing; telepathy; clairvoyance; verifiable after death experiences (see the works of Dr. Brian Weiss) and NDEs; communication with the “dead”; mediumship of all kinds; and all anomalous transfer of information. To simply declare that ALL of the above is either false or fraudulent reflects a lazy, uncritical mind unwilling to do the necessary homework to make such claims.

It is fashionable in academic circles to refute all such work in the “paranormal”, declaring it–in a paternalistic, Freudian manner–a reflection of our collective survival fantasies and equating it with religion or superstition. There is nothing more insulting than this paternalism to those scientists, philosophers, doctors, and so many others who dedicated their lives to unraveling the mysteries of consciousness. Many undertook the journey because the evidence forced them to; many started as skeptics and ended up believing what was obvious enough to shake the very foundations of their prior understanding of life and death. I have lived my entire adult life among academic super-skeptics, who will not even consider the evidence readily available for anyone to consider. There is not one text or experiment that will “prove” survival, but taken as a whole, the information garnered over the last 150 years or so leads the intelligent and thoughtful scholar to the serious consideration of survival of consciousness. However, a great many academics will automatically and instinctively reject ANYTHING that suggests the existence of a soul or an afterlife since it seems unseemly, a product of the religious lower classes that cling to fantasies in order to explain their existence. Academia is elitist in the extreme, always suspicious of any knowledge that it did not create or generate. Academics inhabit a closed system that  often doesn’t play by its own rules, since “knowledge” is their domain, and it is a power game: he who defines reality owns the keys to the kingdom.

The race to define reality as originating in the brain has as much to do with prestige and power as it does with seeking the truth. If science can deny the validity of human experience and declare that we can know nothing about ourselves and that free will is a fantasy, then a select few control the very notion of humanity. There is nothing “scientific” about that; it’s demagoguery and absolutism based on theories that have not yet been proven, and probably never will be. Science is not headed towards proving the location of memory and consciousness–yet, by telling the rest of us that they inevitably will, a chosen few are attempting to control our identity, our experience, and the vast amount of data that leads towards the opposite conclusion–our brains are excellent receivers of memories, information, emotions and experiences that exist SOMEWHERE ELSE. There is abundant evidence for that assertion, and although I won’t pretend to define the location of consciousness–no one can claim to do that–I will say that I trust our human experience. I believe in the validity of our collective observations and deductions regarding the existence and nature of the soul, our contact with those who have died, our continuing awareness after bodily death, and the individual consciousness that is interpreted through our bodies, but is not dependent on it.

Think, I ask, about what it means to equate science and logic with one view of how the brain works. Think about the assumption that those who disagree are illogical, unscientific, superstitious, fantasy driven, undereducated zealots. It’s a profoundly insulting characterization that is simply false. Those who propagate such unflattering propaganda need to do their homework and delve into the so-called “paranormal” research that is strongly suggestive of survival of consciousness. Most of all, however, those men of science who claim to own the truth or will figure it out “given enough time and resources” need some perspective on their own biases and prejudices. That distortion in and of itself is enough to cast serious doubt on the validity and objectivity of their conclusions.

To see the other side of the issue, please take a look at Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary’s The Spiritual Brain – Neuroscience of Consciousness. For some sense of the furious and impolite debate that rages on in this field, read the Amazon.com reviews of the book and the intense emotions that those reviews generate. That in itself is fascinating and worthy of study.

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The Tulip Staircase Ghost (1966)

“Rev. Ralph Hardy, a retired clergyman from White Rock, British Columbia, took this now-famous photograph in 1966. He intended merely to photograph the elegant spiral staircase (known as the “Tulip Staircase”) in the Queen’s House section of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. Upon development, however, the photo revealed a shrouded figure climbing the stairs, seeming to hold the railing with both hands. Experts, including some from Kodak, who examined the original negative concluded that it had not been tampered with. It’s been said that unexplained figures have been seen on occasion in the vicinity of the staircase, and unexplained footsteps have also been heard.” (http://paranormal.about.com/library/blclassic_ghost_on_stairs.htm)

The above photo is one of my favorite anomalous pictures. There is something so melancholy, so desperate, so tragic in this figure’s abandoned gesture. If we are to take this as a true representation of a spirit, then there is a tremendous sadness to the afterlife, or at least to the life-in-death that this soul is experiencing day after day, year after year, decade after decade.

In the previous post, I touch upon the research that defines people in search of their past lives as tending to be depressives with problems sleeping and an active imagination. Perhaps that research would say the same thing about ghost hunters or paranormal investigators. Do we tend to be depressed? Are we prone to insomnia? Do we exaggerate our findings due to lively imaginations? I have no idea; I rather doubt that we are all that different from the general population, although I would like to know what other investigators think about this issue.

During the most difficult time in my life–watching my ex-husband drift away and eventually move out–I started to devour books on life after death. I had so many tomes on the spirit world that they formed a huge column by my bed. They gave me comfort, solace, for reasons that I didn’t understand at the time. Now, when my life is stressful or sad or difficult, I still turn to those tomes–although now, I am choosing to disentangle difficult theories that seek to add scientific backbone to the quest for the afterlife. However, perhaps the emotion that drives this passion of mine is the same as it was then–an unresolved depression and dissatisfaction with the circumstances of my current life. I am not unhappy with my family or my job–quite the contrary–but I have emotional wounds that never healed from years, decades ago. Is it that pain that drives the obsession with life after death? Am I thinking, albeit not always consciously, that the next life will be better? Do I hope for enlightenment and optimism after the transition?

I think it’s a valid question for all of us who work in this field or find ourselves tracking ghosts with fervor. Do we do this because we hope to find something to inspire us in the next life? Is there angst and sadness that we work out through the spirit world? Of course, I don’t mean to suggest that this is the case for everyone, or even the majority–but I have to wonder. Contemplating the above picture, I start to think that perhaps the afterlife is only a reflection of our current life, and that any thought of future happiness in the spirit world is doomed to failure if we don’t find that happiness in the here and now.

As we sow, so shall we reap. If we see through a glass darkly now, that glass will become none the clearer after we exit this world and enter the next.

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