Posts Tagged ‘Society for Psychical Research’

I dread the ‘reveal’, the ‘outing’, of Kirsten as Paranormal Investigator; or, God forbid, Ghost Hunter. This happens, eventually, at work or at church, which is part of the reason I have joined and abandoned eight churches in five years. The voice changes, lowers: “so . . . ” they say, as if they were about to ask me about a sordid affair I’m having, or query me regarding illicit drug use, or any number of other unsavory possibilities, “I hear you . . . hunt ghosts”. Then they giggle, or raise their eyebrows, cock their heads, and smile in that particular way that tells me that they are thrilled that they have just discovered that I am mad or stupid. They are normal in comparison; they are infinitely stable, acceptable, and logical when standing next to a GHOST HUNTER. Then come the questions. I feel heavy, trapped, and exhausted by this point, because I know exactly how the conversation is going to go. I usually fall into a chair and prepare myself for the stereotypes, the ignorance, and the criticism that is about to come my way. Yes, I could simply refuse to discuss this topic with people and walk away; but deep in my heart, I still think that I have the opportunity to change hearts and minds. And no, it doesn’t usually happen; but hope springs eternal. So, without further delay, here are the Top Three Most Annoying Questions for the Paranormal Investigator:

1. So you believe in ghosts???

No. I don’t believe in them. I don’t believe in you, either. I see you and am talking to you, but I don’t BELIEVE in you. You are not God or Jesus or Buddha. I am interacting with you. Therefore, I ascribe some reality to you. You seem rather material and solid, and you are asking questions that I can hear, and I am responding to you, so you exist–materially and spiritually. Now, for that word, “ghost”, let’s drop that already, OK? Nobody knows what a ghost is. All we can do is describe what we think it is, but since we are talking about a non-material entity that manifests itself in a variety of mysterious ways in this visible universe, let’s stop pretending that we know its identity and purpose. Oh, and if you’re envisioning Caspar floating in a sheet, can we just end this miserable conversation right now???

2. You’re so smart; why do you believe this stuff is real?

Well . . . thank you for the compliment. I am, like, SO SMART. So to prove that to you, let’s deconstruct your assumptions, turn them on their head, and force YOU to define reality. I already discussed the ‘believe in’ issue. Let’s move on to ‘this stuff’: what you mean by this is ANYTHING that you don’t understand or that you can’t sense. If your definition of reality is challenged by what others have discovered, or simply by other people’s observations and experiences that point to something beyond the everyday, ordinary reality of collective consciousness, then you decide to attack someone else’s cosmovision. In other words, if you don’t perceive it or understand it, it doesn’t exist. Let’s talk about the word “real”: this is one of those words like ‘love’ or ‘ghosts’ that simply can’t be defined in a simple, straightforward way. What you REALLY mean by this word is this: real is what is real to me, to my community, to my colleagues, to my family, and is supported by my values, ideologies, politics, beliefs, and stereotypes. If what you experience falls outside of what my community values, or what makes me comfortable, or what my church says, or what my chem professor told me, in other words, if YOUR experience causes me discomfort because it falls outside of what I am willing to accept in my life, I will turn on you and label you delusional or strange. The labels keep you at a distance and allow me to continue to live in my little bubble.

3. Can I go with you on an investigation?


Truth is, most people who ask insulting questions of a paranormal researcher are, deep down, fascinated by the varieties of anomalous consciousness (ghosts). They want to know more, but they’re afraid. I understand that. It’s wise to be afraid. At some point, they admit that they are scared of what I do. So I ask them: “What are you scared of?” The answer is, usually, “I’m afraid that ghosts are real”.

That’s where the conversation can start. Yes, my dear, ghosts are real. Now please stop calling them that.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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life and death quote

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

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

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

Two reasons:

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

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

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

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

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Kitty with Yale degree

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what truly matters.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD
Yale University, 1992

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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”.


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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The images for this post were taken at random from a Google search for ‘afterlife’ and ‘reincarnation’. They are revealing insofar as they represent visually our belief systems.

George Anderson has my respect and my admiration for the work that he does; he is probably the world’s greatest living medium. I read his book We Don’t Die and expected to feel tremendous excitement about the life of perfect peace that awaits me after death. No matter how inspirational and lovely his vision of the afterlife appears, I simply can’t believe everything is so perfect and luminous, not only because I have a different approach to survival of consciousness, but because the world he describes is foreign and frightening to a human who defines herself through struggle and spiritual engagement that is often painful.

I read constantly, every day, the research on and related to the survival topic. I believe this is necessary for a writer on this subject to be taken seriously. However, in the end, what I study must match my intuitive experience of life and consciousness for it to become incorporated into my understanding of how life works. I have rejected the theory that consciousness is a result of brain processes not only because no one has proven it to be true, but because it doesn’t match my experience of conscious awareness and memory.

I think that we need to return to our experiences as children to answer our questions, or we need to incorporate them into our overall life philosophy along with the research. When I return to my childhood understanding of life and death, I realize that as I child I understood intuitively the realities that I am now attempting to both remember and recreate. The glorious visions of the afterlife that many religions and some mediums promote as our final destination do not make sense with my childhood wisdom. The afterlife is not static, consistently positive and life-affirming, free of negativity or an eternal resting place for the weary soul. I doubt that it looks much different from the current reality you and I are living.


As a society (Western, in general), we do not take children seriously. With a few notable exceptions, such as Dr. Ian Stevenson’s work with children who remember past lives, we ignore what children say, remember, and how they experience death and rebirth. What I remember and what most children I know experience is nothing like Mr. Anderson’s trouble-free afterlife. In fact, although I don’t dispute that there could be a comforting zone between lives, much of what we experience before and after this life is fairly mundane and occasionally, terribly painful. If we truly listened to our children as they recount scenes from a life already lived, we would learn more about life than through the reading of countless books. To read and absorb information is one thing, but to watch reincarnation in action in your own child is an existential awakening like no other.


The following is a brief list of what children know that adults ignore, suppress or ridicule:

1: The living creature doesn’t die with the body.

When I was a child, I remember knowing that a dead body had no identity as the person or pet that I had loved. The first death that I recall was that of my rat, Sir Bell. Sir Bell died, as rats are wont to do, after a few months with us. I saw his body one morning, and I knew that Sir Bell had left. The stiff little carcass in the rat house was not my pet. Yes, I was sad, because I couldn’t hold, pet or play with him anymore, but not because Sir Bell had died in his body, but because my rat didn’t HAVE a body anymore. I knew the difference completely, at age four.

Even though my parents desperately attempted to keep me away from death (probably because I had had several brushes with death myself by age 5), I managed to glimpse it anyway. More recently, when we lost Kenny the Sphinx, I had a similar experience that reminded me of my long-ago lost pets. Kenny was the most adored feline on the planet, and when he succumbed to heart disease in July of 2010, I was terrified of seeing his body. I suppose that I had forgotten the earlier lessons of childhood; but when I did see what was left of him, it was immediately, instinctively apparent to me that Kenny was not in that cold cat body. He simply was NOT there; that didn’t mean that he wasn’t ANYWHERE, but that I was looking at lifeless flesh, not Kenny.  On many occasions, our other cats will play and chase Kenny around the house. Their behavior is clearly, for anyone who understands cat behavior—playful, and they are playing with Kenny where he used to hang out.

Can I prove that my two living cats are playing with the spirit of Kenny? Of course I can’t; but over two and a half years of watching this behavior, I am very comfortable affirming that Nod and Bingo are playing with the Kenny without the body.  Every time I saw the dead body of an animal as a child, I knew without anyone telling me that the spirit of that creature no longer resided in that flesh. I could not have explained where the spirit went, or even what a spirit was; but I knew that my pets were not alive only in my head or in my memories of them. My sadness and frustration was about not being able to find them, not about losing them forever. This was in contradiction to what my parents taught me about death. They maintained that we—everything that we are, including anything like a soul, in addition to our consciousness—dissolved into the earth recycled itself through another life cycle. My parents were not religious; there was no afterlife for them. They also did not expand their spirituality to include survival of a spirit.

What I knew was intrinsic to me, learned through experiences I could not consciously recall.

afterlife 1

2: You don’t have to stay with your body all of the time. You can leave and come back.

As I have written about before on soulbank, I left my body during surgery when I was five years old. I was up near the ceiling and saw, quite contrary to my wishes, that I had a mask over my face. Before this surgery, a nurse asked if I wanted the needle or the mask to put me to sleep. I had been adamant that I wanted no mask over my face. She had agreed. The nurse had lied to me. I don’t remember anger over this, but I was planning on bringing this up later. I experienced no internal contradiction over the fact that I was two places at once. I knew that the little girl on the table was me, but the ‘real’ me was up near the ceiling; of that there was no doubt. To this day, the strongest lesson from that experience was the fact that my identity and consciousness were in no way connected to that body on the table.  I was not afraid of that fact, nor anxious in any way about the fate of the girl below. I was safe up on the ceiling and very calm.

Later, I did bring up the mask issue to my doctor, to the nurses, to anyone who would listen. Beyond a few strange looks, they never addressed my concerns. In fact, everything I said to anyone regarding that incident was written off as a hallucination. After that incident, I would occasionally glimpse people and images that others couldn’t see, as if I had been granted temporary access to another world. Every single time I attempted to explain who I was seeing, I was told that I had an overly active imagination, that I was prone to fantasy, or that I was getting sick. Sometimes, the adults would accuse me of manipulating reality for my own entertainment, or as an aggressive game that no one else could play. I learned to shut up whenever I saw, felt, heard or experienced anything out of the ordinary. What a sad lesson.


3: Most adults and most of your peers will think you’re crazy or odd if you say anything about perceiving animals or people who supposedly aren’t there.

The adjective that everyone used to describe me—both family members and friends—was “weird”. That epithet clung to me like a dark cloud. I could never shake the accusations that I “made stuff up,” “lived in a fantasy world,” “created reality,” or “had a vivid imagination.” Every single time I attempted to communicate how I saw the world, I was shot down. If I felt that a passed relative or friend had communicated with me, I was told that I was engaging in wish fulfillment. Unless you have lived through this yourself, you can’t know how painful it is to see the world differently and be told that you are stupid, crazy or deluded.

Much of what was leveled at me was based in fear and ignorance. My memories of a past life were so vivid that much of my behavior as a young child was driven by them. To this day, I have phobias and behaviors that are traceable to a past life. At this point, I don’t care if I can “prove” that to anyone; it’s simply a part of my reality that I have to accept, just as I have to accept my experiences as a child, a teen and an adult as part of who I am. There is no difference. I certainly didn’t choose to be involved in drugs and prostitution as an ideal past incarnation, but we don’t always get to choose, or maybe we never do; in any case, I remember—I will always remember—the shame and sadness of that life, a life that I have spent 47 years attempting to reconcile with my current life. Anyone who tells me that past lives don’t exist has not spent her entire life attempting to overcome the last one. I don’t care what the scientists say, or the academics, or the average Joe: my evidence for reincarnation is, quite simply, who I am.


4: Children come into the world with baggage.

Genetics and heredity do not explain what most parents experience with their children: they come into the world with complex emotions, inexplicable behaviors, preferences, personalities and desires that often confound and confuse their bewildered parents. Almost every parent would say that their child was unique in ways that were not explicable by random combinations of genes. No one has been able to prove that what makes us who we are in terms of personality, memories, identity, sense of self, values, beliefs, attitudes or ideas can be reduced to genetic codes. Where is the code for an intense fear of substance abuse in a four year old?

When I first looked into my nephew’s eyes, I saw a world weariness and a sadness that was centuries old. This was not the infant as blank slate, which was in fact what I was expecting before I looked into his eyes. What I saw, what my sister saw, was a soul that had already lived many times before, and was back for another round. We used to joke that he cried so intensely and with such emotional pain because he couldn’t believe he was a baby again, that he was ‘back’ again. It really isn’t a joke; not to those of us who still remember the long-ago struggles of our lives. It’s easy to laugh, but what is more heart-wrenching than seeing your baby and your toddler struggle with traumas that you had no hand in creating and can’t fix?

So: when mediums write about the afterlife as glorious and trouble free, or when religion paints Heaven as a place of eternal repose and joy, forgive me for remaining skeptical. My experience tells me that life is one, giant recycle bin where consciousness expresses itself over and over again in different bodies. It’s common and constant. We think it’s such a big deal to be born or to die, but consciousness neither comes into being nor goes out; it simply changes venue.

This is neither comforting nor upsetting to me. It just is. Even though I welcome struggle and transcendence, I certainly do not welcome the ugly realities of inhabiting a body that is riddled with disease or addictions. I don’t look forward to a life whose pains and pleasures I cannot predict or even understand right now. Maybe there is a ‘life between lives’ that is pure bliss, but I don’t remember experiencing it. Eastern religions teach that eventually, the cycle of birth and death is overcome and Nirvana awaits; for me, that is wishful thinking. There are infinite lives, in infinite time periods, in infinite circumstances, that one can move through. There is no ‘before’ or ‘after’ when you are discussing consciousness and identity, so ‘coming from’ Heaven or ‘returning to’ Heaven is a meaningless concept.

Listen to your children when they tell you stories of who they were ‘before’. Attentive parents understand the difference between children’s creative fantasy play and real memories. They are essentially different modes of expression. If you are struggling with this as a parent, please go here: http://www.childpastlives.org/

If you are struggling with this issue as an adult, well, that’s the point. It’s all part of your journey.



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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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