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Posts Tagged ‘paranormal phenomena’

What does science say about 'paranormal' sleep experiences ...

Every now and then, I like to dust off my critical mind and find an article that–yet again!–seeks to describe all paranormal phenomena as a by product of brain functions, ‘stress’, or some other physical or psychological glitch in the system. The latest assault on the paranormal comes from this source, which you are welcome to read in its entirety should you feel inspired: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-ooze/201507/why-some-people-see-ghosts-and-other-apparitions

Here is a quote that I find interesting yet dismaying: “A recent study by Kirsten Barnes and Nicholas Gibson (2013) explored the differences between individuals who have never had a paranormal experience and those who have. They confirmed that experiences of supernatural phenomena are most likely to occur in threatening or ambiguous environments, and they also found that those who had paranormal experiences scored higher on scales measuring empathy and a tendency to become deeply absorbed in one’s own subjective experience.”

One of the most common assumptions of scientists and psychologists when dealing with anomalous experiences is that the environment or the brain itself PRODUCES the paranormal experience. There are so many variations on this assumption: blind spots create the effect of seeing something out of the corner of your eye; variations in the electromagnetic field produce the feeling of a presence or being watched; variations in infrasound create feelings of doom or dread; sleep paralysis and the hypnagogic state bring our dreams into reality; or environmental contaminants make us hallucinate. The article under discussion here states that both stressful and boring environments create the necessary conditions for the brain to hallucinate ghosts. If you are a sensitive person, an empath, or simply prone to self analysis, your brain will supply you with visions. The problem with this hypothesis should be fairly clear, but allow me to break down my objections:

  1. Instead of assuming that conditions and brain states CREATE the paranormal experience, it is more likely that the proper CONDITIONS lead to the ability to perceive non-ordinary realities and presences. You can study the brains of meditators and mystics and exclaim that the changes you see in their brains have created their visions, or you can conclude that the changes in their brains are the result of sustained and focused connection with “God” or the world of spirit. The brain changes are the result of their spiritual practices, not the cause.
  2. The same can be said for people who enter trance states, ingest psychedelic substances, engage in intense religious rituals, or in any other way alter their consciousness with the express intent to contact the world of spirit. Yes, the brain changes in response to the substance, activity or intention of the participant in any kind of ritual, because the brain is accommodating and facilitating the connection, not creating it.
  3. This does not mean that you can’t genuinely hallucinate while under the influence of drugs, carbon monoxide, or some other physical agent. What’s the difference? In genuine cases of spiritual contact, there is logic, emotional impact, a sense of the divine, a coherent story, or the fulfillment of one’s deepest intentions. There is, in other words, a sense of the holy or sacred that accompanies one’s vision, a transcendence that serves to elevate the experience to another level of reality and often ends up changing the life of the person who has witnessed or sensed the presence. I have, unfortunately, endured an episode of carbon monoxide poisoning when I was a teenager in Spain–I woke up disoriented, confused, and seeing strange things. I knew immediately that this was not ‘paranormal’, but something that was sickening me in body and mind. I have also had multiple surgeries where I struggled through the effects of anesthesia and other drugs, and it was always clear that those effects were not at all supernatural due to their chaotic and irrational nature. There is simply no way to compare the effects of drugs and poison to a true, spiritual experience that leaves you in awe.
  4. And, finally, to reduce spiritual experiences to brain effects or environmental stresses completely ignores centuries of human experiences of the holy and the uncanny. If you reduce the power of religion to, for example, the stress Jesus felt while wandering through the desert, you have denied the most powerful aspect of humanity: our ability to connect to higher realities and transmit those messages to others.

Our brains serve as a sort of ‘reducing valve’ for an overwhelming amount of information that we cannot possibly process in its entirety. This quote from Aldous Huxley is quite famous in certain spiritual circles:

“Each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. […]

But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet.” https://www.ianmack.com/aldous-huxley-dont-mistake-the-trickle-for-ultimate-reality/

And yes, Huxley wrote this after his experiments with mescaline; and yet, think about it: there is infinitely more information ‘out there’ than we are able to process. If some event, circumstance, drug, or stressor hampers the brain’s ability to filter out the greater reality, extra information can sneak past the gates and flood us with ‘paranormal’ experiences: messages from the gods or from God, spirit contact, or the ability to perceive what is normally blocked from view. How do we know what is ‘real’ and what is the result of a brain on overload? “By their fruits you shall know them”: this refers to false prophets, but it could easily refer to false messages or hallucinations. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit; likewise, true spiritual contact, ‘real’ paranormal experiences, are life changing and profound.

I have not mentioned the fact that documented and verifiable paranormal experiences are abundant and well researched. The Society for Psychical Research, for example, has published volumes of excellent evidence for the existence of ‘ghosts’, telepathy, near death experiences, mediumship, out of body experiences, and so much more. The SPR has been around since 1882 and included some of the most prominent and respected scientists of their time. Their work continues today. Gary Schwartz in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona has carried out fascinating experiments in afterlife communication. I could go on and on, but the point is: before one decides what is ‘science’ and what is not, you must do your research. There are centuries of evidence that spiritual energy is real and communicates with us on a regular basis. You don’t need to be an empath to receive these communications, but you do need to allow that such experiences are possible; if you block the full range of human consciousness with your materialism in the name of science, you lose the most profound aspect of our humanity: our connection to spirit.

The end of the article offers advice for the psychologist faced with the patient reporting paranormal contact:

“There are really only three possibilities:

  1. The event really happened, just as the person has reported.
  2. The person believes that the event has really happened, but it has not.
  3. The person is fabricating a story for some reason.”

I am not entirely sure how the psychologist would know that the event has not really happened, in the case of the second scenario. I would recommend option number 1, assuming that there is no serious mental illness present (although, some argue that schizophrenia, for example, is simply a case of a reducing valve that does not work well and allows too much information in without context or intention).

In the end, we simply cannot assume that we have access to the full display of reality that the Universe contains. Some of our brains are more plastic, more open, than others, for a multitude of reasons. Why not treat those people for whom the larger realities intrude as wise instead of crazy? Why not see what doors open for psychology and science when this extra information flows through freely, without judgment or skepticism? And, of course, why not educate yourselves in the rich history of the ‘paranormal’ and realize that the science is, actually, already settled?

—Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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I’ve given up. Completely. Paranormal investigations might be many things, but one thing they are not: a way to prove that dead people can communicate with the living.

I still go out with my team. I love the ladies with all my heart; but I don’t believe that we are finding proof or even evidence of life after death. I’ve spent years writing about all the possible explanations for our EVP and weird photos, odd shadows and lights on video, anomalous Ghost Radar word strings, and so on. All this data we collected led us to no conclusions and no ‘proof’ that would satisfy anyone who wasn’t there. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: what we do is not ‘scientific,’ not verifiable, not convincing to a die-hard materialist or even an agnostic. There will always be an alternative explanation, the suspicion of fraud (even though we’ve never attempted to mislead anyone in the entire eight years we’ve been together), the “I wasn’t there” attitude, and the general questions regarding our methods, motives, and procedures. Mostly, though, people just don’t care about the paranormal like they used to. There was a heyday for investigations when Hollywood sniffed out money-making opportunities and came calling, causing so many of us to fall in the Industry’s snares. Yup. I was opportunistic and fame-hungry too. I admit it. I cloaked those all-too-human desires with the idea that I could ‘share’ our discoveries with the world, and we would Make Them Believe.

The general public is no longer interested in our cool sound bites or our shadows that could be ghosts. I doubt that we will experience any kind of Renaissance in the field of the paranormal that involves iPhones or hacked AM radios ever again. That’s probably for the best. We never really knew what we were looking for, anyway, beyond the idea that souls might hang out at creepy places and want to talk into our recorders; the weird data we collected over the years was always inconclusive and misleading, subject to interpretation and doubt.

So why do I claim that we will never prove life after death? First of all, because there is no spiritual death–just the death of our flesh casing–and I simply don’t believe that our regenerated consciousness is going to choose to float around a dank, nasty hallway in an old asylum. Also, because whatever God you believe in–no matter what you call it–has placed an absolute prohibition on such proof. Not because ‘proof’ negates faith, but because if such a thing as scientific proof for the afterlife ever presented itself, it would terminate the individual’s spiritual path. Seeking and striving would end, and there would be complacency and pointlessness in our material lives.

I think that we found bits and pieces of consciousness out there that might well have been just enough to keep us searching and pushing forward on our spiritual quests, but never enough to answer our questions. Every spiritual quest eventually comes to an end, when we realize that we have hit the proverbial dead end. I hit the wall with paranormal investigations years ago, but I loved hanging out with my dear ones in scary places, and I still do. I probably always will; but I have adjusted my expectations and no longer expect to learn anything new or life changing with my trusty ghost tools. That part of my search is over.

Each individual is on the Earth in their particular incarnation to figure out the nature of life, change, death, consciousness, God, the spirit world, reality, karma, and how to manage other people and the planet itself. Our job is to figure all this out; it might take forever, but that’s what we’re assigned to do. This is the problem, then, with what we as paranormal investigators attempted to do: hijack others’ spiritual paths with information that would render the individual’s search for meaning unnecessary. By ‘proving’ the continuity of our eternal selves–our stated goal–all someone had to do was accept the truth of our findings and carry on, knowing that there was no spiritual work to do because we had done that for them.

Humans, however, resist like crazy anyone else’s attempt to define reality. We all instinctively know that we are on our own when it comes to the Big Questions. We can join esoteric communities, profess certain faiths, ghost hunt, meditate, wander the desert with our possessions in a small bag, chew on magic plants, or spin in circles until we leave our bodies. The point is, we do this alone even if we are part of a faith community. Every, single one of us has to figure this out in one way or the other: are we eternal? Are we a manifestation of God? Do we come back again and again to work on these existential issues until, one day, we fade into Oneness? Are we ghosts at some point? Are we, perhaps, always a form of ghost? No matter how hard we try to supply these answers for others, we simply cannot. This is hard, painful, frustrating, and intense work that we do in the process of our transformation.

I no longer look for answers in the outside world. I look within and stare into the darkness as well as the light. The outside world changes as I change; there are strange messages and astounding signs that point me in new directions and confirm some of my tentative beliefs about the nature of true reality. But I don’t share these deeply personal revelations easily, if at all; I don’t need someone ‘debunking’ my path or sneering at my methods.

The only thing I ‘hunt’ for these days is myself and God. Sometimes I find neither; sometimes both appear to be one; other days I simply wander, lost, wondering if would be easier to just open up my Ghost Radar and stare at the dots.

Much love to all,

Kirsten

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DSC_3947

When we rented our current home, I knew it was a troubled place. The landlady was enduring a bitter divorce, and she needed to move from the house that her husband had rebuilt for her and then abandoned. There were many unhappy scenes in the house before she left; according to her, his personality had undergone a ‘complete transformation’ while living here. He plotted and schemed in his office, planning an escape to a foreign country to be with his very young girlfriend, and his illegal activities prompted a federal agency to visit this property a few months back.

She suffered here after he left. There was evidence–which I will not detail here–that she did not deal with this huge loss in the healthiest of ways. While she was here and for several months after she left, she had one accident after another and fell terribly ill for several weeks. Her life unraveled in this house. When we first saw the place, both my kid and my husband had reservations. Ty thought it was “antiseptic,” and my daughter said the place was filled with “bad vibes.” I had decided to ignore my initial impressions and my feelings, primarily because I was sick of making decisions based on emotions. That was the reason I lost my beloved home at Marmora: I had made an emotional decision that cost the family every penny we had earned. This time, I reasoned, I am only following pure practicality. The house was big, boasted all the most modern conveniences, and was well constructed, since the previous owner was a contractor.

The strangeness of the house began almost immediately, and ever since we moved in last September, I have tried to leave. My gut instinct continued to drive me to find another home, even though my intellect was horrified at my hunches. My rational brain has been in a full-out battle with my animal instincts since Day 1. I wanted to be practical, I desperately wanted to make this work, especially because my husband settled in and had zero desire to uproot himself again. Moving is traumatic for everyone, but especially for my husband. However, I could not stop myself. I have been driven to look elsewhere.

Nothing has worked. Every time I thought we could get out, the possibilities vanished. We couldn’t buy anything, so I decided to find another rental property. This constant hunt for the next place is gradually shifting in the right direction, but something–some force greater than myself–has blocked me from moving the hell out of here. Our lease is up in three months, and I think I might have found something that will work–but if not, I vow to continue the search.

I made the mistake of confronting my house and the oppressive, angry atmosphere. I know that one is not “supposed” to run EVP sessions in one’s own house. However, I had done this many times over in the old house to no ill effect. When the energy is positive, one can run EVP sessions without fear of repercussion. When the energy is negative or sick, it is not advisable to try to figure things out on your own. My apologies to the paranormal community: I know I broke a golden rule. As a result, there is no way for me to be comfortable in my house.

Rather than go into detail about what I heard, I offer you a few clips to listen to yourself. I was alone in the house at the time. I have a bird that you might hear screaming in the background. It was around 11:30 AM. I was in the office, the same room where the ex-husband plotted his evil misdeeds. I feel him the most, even though he is not dead. I don’t believe physical death is a requirement for a haunting; more on that later. Here are the clips, but please do turn up the volume and wear headphones. Otherwise, you won’t hear anything. I will provide detail on what I hear at the end of the audio clip posts, so if you don’t want to know my interpretations, please write down your own impressions first and then see if they match mine.

What I hear in these clips is the following:

For the “Mesa Response” clip, I hear the word “DEPART” and then a knock.
For the “Right After I Say ‘Or Not'” clip, I hear “GET OUT OF HERE”.
For the “Mesa Woman Says Two Sentences” clip, I hear “Don’t you come back, go back” and then something else afterwards that is unintelligible to me.
For the “Mesa Whispered Response” clip, I hear “Sorry”.
For the “Mesa Woman Voice” clip, I hear a woman’s voice in the background at 3 seconds, and a faint, male voice responding at 4 seconds.
For the “Mesa Man and Woman Responds” clip, I hear the male voice start a sentence with “if you blink” but I can’t tell what he says afterwards, and the woman clearly responds “no”.

LITTLE KITTY BY GRAVE

The question is: what is happening in these clips that might explain the feelings in the house? I had always assumed that these voices were directing their “get out” messages to me; but upon listening to them again, it’s clear that most of what I am hearing is a dialogue between a man and a woman. This seems now to be more of an echo of past trauma in the house, a replay of the arguments that infected the home during the break up the marriage. I was convinced, until right now, that the male energy here wanted me gone; upon further reflection, there is no way to know that by listening to these clips.

I wonder now if the house is simply a repository of unhappiness. I have attempted to ‘cleanse’ the house of this energy, but to no avail. I don’t think that one can clear houses of either intelligent activity or of residual activity. When investigators claim to have accomplished such a feat, I am always skeptical. I don’t believe that we have such powers. I think that the rituals that we engage in to “lighten” a house serve mostly to make us feel better but have little effect on the residual or intelligent haunt. Activity can decrease temporarily, but it’s hubris to assume that we can eradicate spirit energies. Nothing will erase what happened here.

I am convinced that humans can haunt locations while alive. There is evidence for this in research conducted by the Society for Psychical Research (see Phantasms of the Living). There are many accounts of apparitions of living people who return in times of stress to interact with family or friends. There are many credible reports of people seeing someone they know in one location when that person is proven to be at another location. Trauma in a certain house or building can split one’s spirit or consciousness into active fragments that play themselves out again and again. My dearest friend is convinced that she is actively haunting certain places from her childhood where she experienced trauma. When she recalls certain incidents, she feels something akin to an ‘out of body’ experience where she is back at the site in spirit, venting her anger and outrage with such force that anyone at that site might be able to pick up her emotions.

This theory would also explain why people have the experience of having been somewhere before, to the point that they are able to identify landmarks, streets and buildings that they could not have seen in the flesh. Our consciousness is unbounded by time and space. We can experience much more than we are aware of on the surface. My landlady’s divorce continues to play itself out in her old house. She doesn’t know this, but she and her ex-husband are not finished hashing out the misery of their old unhappiness. Whether or not this is a “stone tape” recording of old grief or a continued interplay of two people on another level of consciousness is a question I cannot answer.

What makes all of this so heartbreaking for me is the fact that I am the only one living here who feels this sadness. My husband and kid are rarely at home. I am the only one who is here during the day, when the energy here is the heaviest. I live in one universe, and my husband lives in another. He simply does not perceive these invisible worlds. His inner life is as mysterious to me as my exquisite sensitivity to the outside world is mysterious to him. When one person can perceive alternate realities and the other can’t, it creates certain challenges.

I’m planning on finding us another home as soon as our obligation is met here. I am paying the price for ignoring my first impressions and attempting to negate my excellent instincts. I survived one divorce. I will not expose myself to the emotional and spiritual damage of yet another one.

I welcome your comments on this post and any interpretations you may have of the audio clips. If you heard something that I did not, please write to me. In the meantime, I wish you all a blessed week and much peace and love in your homes.

—Kirsten A. Thorne, Ph.D.

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