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Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

I have been gone for a long time. However, there is a good reason: I have been writing a book on the broader topic of spirituality that includes personal details that I have not revealed on Soulbank. The following is a chapter from that book–I hope you enjoy reading it and will be looking forward to more ‘teaser’ chapters.

I read a book one night: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer. Mr. Singer believes that anyone can achieve enlightenment at any point by simply allowing reality to exist and flow through us without the mediation of our emotions, thoughts, and judgments. A quote that nicely sums up the main thrust of his book is this one: “Deep inner release is a spiritual path in and of itself. It is the path of nonresistance, the path of acceptance, the path of surrender. It’s about not resisting energies as they pass through you.” (250) I decided that if that is ‘all’ that it took to become enlightened, that I could do it. And so I decided to put into practice everything that Mr. Singer suggested.

The first night after I made this decision, I lay on the floor and cried. Emotions needed to flow through me in order to not control and dominate my life and my decisions. I released the pain of my daughter moving to England and taking away the security blanket for my life, exposing my fears and vulnerabilities. I writhed in anger over the mass shootings of recent weeks, the tragic situation at the Southern border, the fact of the hottest July in recorded history, and the deep, painful divisions that our country is living through. I felt like a bottomless pit of pain, but after awhile, the intensity of what I was feeling subsided, and there was a measure of peace.

The next day, I decided that my emotions, judgments, preferences, desires, and fears would ‘pass through me’ without affecting my clear view of reality: the present moment. I downed a theanine gummy (an amino acid present in green tea that is supposed to help with anxiety and lack of focus) and drank a mug of English Breakfast tea while playing Scrabble with my husband. About 30 minutes later, I started to feel very, very strange. The room lightened and colors intensified, and I experienced the bizarre sensation of my head opening up and allowing my consciousness to expand into the room. I seemed to be losing myself as a body and became more of an awareness. The instant reaction was fear. I didn’t want to ‘go’ where this bizarre process was taking me, because I had not intended to experience cosmic unity today. I wanted to hold on to the everyday, mundane reality that I love so dearly, which included taking my turn at Scrabble; but the Universe was not allowing it.

Panic sets in for me when I cannot find a ‘reason’ for a sensation or an experience, and when I cannot control the sensation or experience. I was not directing this expansion of my mind, nor could I stop it from happening. One hundred milligrams of a theanine gummy intended for children could not possibly be the causative agent for what felt like the beginning of a full-blown psychedelic trip. Instead of allowing panic to take over and determine the course of the next hour or so, I lay down on the sofa and decided not to fight the process, even if it made no sense to my terrified mind.

I cried and shook as waves of emotion and energy passed through me. I do not know what had to be released, for any sense of myself as an independent entity vanished, and I was simply a being experiencing something that I was unable to name, comprehend, or describe. “I” was not there to perform those functions. My job was to stay on the couch and not fight it. Indeed, I doubt there was any way to fight the experience, for ‘it’ was far too powerful to be managed.

After about an hour or so, I was able to sit up. I was woozy and confused by what had transpired, but I felt clear, in the way one feels after crying hard for a long time. I was even able to continue playing Scrabble, losing for the second time that weekend. I would love to say that my experience on the sofa cleansed me of my ego and took me straight to Enlightenment, but I found myself angry and resentful about losing the Scrabble game and realized, yet again, that I had not achieved the goal of life ‘passing through me’, even though I had just experienced life passing through me while pressed into the couch! What happened?

I have written before that I do not believe in a ‘path’ or that such a thing as “Enlightenment” truly exists. In fact, I view the concept as an ideal that can easily turn into a spiritual trap where the ego involves itself and starts charging money for the experience at a nice resort where people can smoke toad venom and enlighten themselves instantly. The idea that anyone could ever become–in Mr. Singer’s words–that “open, that complete, and that whole” seemed impossible, idealistic, and in a sense, a denial of human nature at its most fundamental level. We are material beings safeguarding our survival, and to think that we could ever simply allow reality to pass through us without creating meaning around it is something of a pipe dream. After all, do any of us KNOW anyone who does this? Can any of us say that we have met an Enlightened being? And how do we KNOW that someone has achieved such a state?

Stories about gurus who devolve into licentious and criminal behavior are everywhere. I had friends I respected as spiritual seekers who took the content of their cosmic experiences and used that to open psychedelic retreats and charge significant amounts of money to be ‘guides’ for others’ transformative experiences. So many people I know are trying to earn a living selling Enlightenment to lost and desperate souls looking to be happy. I am deeply wary of anyone who profits from spirituality. I watch myself carefully when I write for an audience, even if that audience is very small. I do not know what Enlightenment is, and I do not preach anything to anyone.

And yet, how do I explain experiences that force me to ‘give up’ and allow emotions and strange energies to run through me? How do I explain the psychedelic or spiritually transformative experience? I do not explain it, because I have come to the conclusion that explaining those moments is fundamentally impossible. The force behind such cosmic connections is so mysterious and ineffable that words, even lots and lots of words, do very little to transmit the meaning of the experience. I do not know if these tsunamis of spiritual openings have anything to do with what we think of as Enlightenment. After all, right afterwards, I experienced anger and fear, irritation and resentment, and I did not get the sense that I was ‘liberated’ from any of those emotions.

I think about the basic teachings of Jesus, and they are pretty basic, indeed: Love one another. Easy to say, very hard to do. I think that, in the end, if you can manage to love yourself and others enough that you don’t cause any damage and can perhaps sow the seeds of compassion for the human situation, then you have accomplished as much as can be expected of yourself and others. I am someone who reacts, holds on, rages, refuses to accept a great many situations I find unjust, and is generally quite emotional. I do not think that I am capable of allowing my emotions, thoughts, and judgments to flow through me without any identification with them.

I am willing to admit that I could be wrong about Enlightenment. Perhaps it is achievable by some people; maybe I know someone who fits the criteria, and I am not aware of it, because that is how unenlightened I actually am. When Mr. Singer states, “You truly can reach a state in which you never have any more stress, tension, or problems for the rest of your life”, I want to throw the book across the room. I do not know if I WANT a life without stress, tension, or problems, because all those undesirable states and situations propel me to take action and figure things out. Without resistance, there is no pushing through to the other side of your limitations. The chick must peck her way out of the egg in order to build the muscles to survive. If she passively accepted her state of being in the egg, she would die.

The struggle for survival shapes and creates us. Of course, sometimes we must give up the fight. Nobody wants to die flailing and screaming, although I suspect I might be one of those who do not ‘go gently into that good night’. I will probably resist until the last moment, when I surrender myself to God with a completely open heart. And perhaps, we are supposed to surrender to God on a regular basis, just to remind ourselves who is in charge. Resistance might be futile, but it is so very human. I am here to be human; I am not God, nor do I aspire to be a spiritual leader.

There is something liberating about stating that you do not have a clue how something works. I do not understand the overall design of the Universe, how consciousness works, what God is, or whether or not enlightenment is possible. What I love is the process, the ‘seeing through a glass darkly’. I suppose I adore the mystery, the fight, the illumination, and the falling into humanity and ignorance, only to climb back up and start the process all over again.

May you enjoy the journey as well, and if you find yourself enlightened along the way, send me an email explaining how you got there and what it feels like. I’m guessing not like I’m feeling now. I want iced cream and a nap.

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I decided to read some old diaries, from years back. I had expectations: I would see how much I had evolved over the last year, how truly different I had become after all of my spiritual experiences, and I would feel compassion for the Kirsten of yesterday, pre-Spiritual Awakening. Perhaps, I pondered, I could hold a ceremony for that poor woman shredded by anxiety and beaten down by depression; a ‘soul healing’ for who I used to be.

I read avidly, looking for all the signs that I had, indeed, achieved Enlightenment. The more I read, the more my spirits fell. Something’s wrong. I did not see much difference. I poured over diary after diary, hoping that I would see how much I had transformed. I didn’t see it. Instead, I saw that I was the same. THE SAME. After a year of dazzling and shocking revelations, wild visions, intense talks with God and the Universe, countless hours of meditation, regular experiences in states of altered consciousness, a total spiritual breakdown, trance states, taking to the dead, reading people’s minds, channeling, you freakin’ name it, nothing fundamental was different about me.

I read back through Soulbank, hoping that I would see evidence of my progress there. Nope. What I wrote in 2009 followed the same–or similar– themes as now. I poured over everything I wrote over the last year, looking for huge shifts in my Ascension Process. Nope. I had revelations, forgot about them, had them again; I would swear something was new and shocking, but actually it was an understanding I had arrived at years prior. This was something similar to my Nine Churches in Six Years journey, which led me from the Catholic Church to the Episcopal Church to community churches to something called New Thought. I arrived at the end where I had started out: confused. Angry. “Why,” I thought, “am I not getting anywhere?”

I ask the same question now: “WHY am I not getting anywhere?” The answer is quite plain and simple: there is nowhere to go. There is no final, spiritual destination. There is no correct path, no best way to Get There. There is, actually, no path at all. I always thought that a moment would come when you knew that you had arrived: you were happy, almost all the time, and everything–all the Big Mysteries–would be solved. You would have found peace and radiate love. Children and animals would naturally gravitate towards you, because they sensed that you contained a Buddha or Jesus-like radiance. Dammit. I was gonna be HOLY.

I started reading about monks who had spent 20 years meditating and found that they were still angry, judgmental, fearful, and confused. Sometimes they were happy and calm; sometimes they hated everything and everybody. That made no sense to me–isn’t the point of all these experiences that we come to peace with ourselves and our God? And isn’t that peace that ‘surpasses all understanding’ supposed to be permanent? What’s going on here?

I myself was very judgmental for quite some time regarding paranormal investigating. It was a pseudo science, it was pointless, it was providing no solid evidence for life after death, and so on. At some point over the last year, it hit me: just as there is no right way to figure out reality and God and the Universe and the nature of consciousness, there is no WRONG way to figure it all out, either. If the Ghost Radar and weird audio are leading you somewhere you want and need to go, then that is just as valid as attending Mass, meditating for hours, praying, chanting, spinning, or eating strange berries that make you see serpents in the clouds. Who was I, or anyone, to judge what method was best for finding yourself or discovering the secrets of the Cosmos?

Last January, I went through hell. I had traumatic memories surface, I had odd and scary thoughts that I couldn’t control, I experienced emotions that terrified me and made no sense. I truly thought that I was losing my mind. I felt energy run through my body like I was some kind of live wire or mega-charged battery. I couldn’t sleep, I felt dizzy and spacey, and I was sure that I was losing my grip on reality. I dutifully trundled off to therapy, meditated, prayed, and attended support groups for such things as Spiritual Emergencies, Kundalini rising, Spiritual Awakenings, Ascension, Light Workers, and so on and so forth. I howled at the moon and found my spirit animal. I took classes on mediumship. I pondered becoming a shaman (HA! Nobody should want to be a shaman) or at least, a spiritual guide for the nether worlds of the soul. I meditated until I entered trances and had visions. It faded away after school started in February and used up all my energy.

But my research had just begun. What had I gone through? I read thousands of pages on Kundalini openings, yoga, and other spiritual practices that scared the crap out of me–they had dire warnings about Kundalini energy making people insane or suicidal. That, of course, kicked off my anxiety. Then, I found out that menopause has the SAME SYMPTOM LIST. Yup. Perhaps everything that I experienced and labeled as deep, spiritual transformations was simply the result of hormones dropping and rising precipitously and messing with my neurotransmitters. That realization was quite sobering and more than a tad depressing. Was any of what I experienced real in any sense at all?

There are many articles that link menopause to spiritual enlightenment or Kundalini rising. For those of you who don’t know, Kundalini energy is supposedly stored at the base of your spine and rises up through the seven chakras. At least, I THINK that there are seven chakras. If you block the rising energy, it will negatively affect one of your chakras and cause physical symptoms. It is often experienced as heat spreading up the torso. If you have ever had a hot flash, assuming you’re a woman of a certain age, that’s EXACTLY what Kundalini energy is supposed to feel like. “Menopause is Enlightenment,” one website affirms. If this is Enlightenment, it kind of sucks.

I couldn’t, of course, figure out whether or not menopause was the Ultimate Cause of the difficult emotions and upsetting thoughts that plagued me for several weeks. In fact, nothing really explained it to my satisfaction: too many life situations could have caused it, and the explanations ran the gamut from psychological issues to hormonal imbalance to spiritual emergence. In the end, there was no way to define or pigeon hole it; it was weird, it was unexpected, it was inexplicable. However, I did learn one thing: the thoughts, feelings, and crazy energies were NOT the problem. My reaction to them was the problem. I panicked; I freaked out; I spent endless hours online trying to figure out what was ‘wrong’ with me.

As usual, anxiety was the villain in my story. It always is. It always has been. I could have chosen to simply let it go, observe it all, find it curious but pay it no undue attention. My need to label it, to find a box to stick it in, created pain and confusion. It has taken me a very long time to figure this out, but here it is: you don’t need to label every experience or rank it as desirable or terrible. Spirituality is a very vague concept, indeed. Everything we do and are is ‘spiritual’, if you believe that there is more to us than meat. All roads lead to Rome, if you have a sincere desire to learn and commit yourself to loving yourself and others as part of your search. Stay off the Internet. Trust me, it leads nowhere. Even therapy was mostly unhelpful, as every individual has her own take on what it is you are experiencing, and that could end up confusing or upsetting you. Don’t let other people define the experiences you are having–and don’t worry that you don’t know if your lightheadedness is the start of an Out of Body Experience or just PMS. Any experience can be interpreted as spiritual, physical, or psychological. You can convince yourself that you are going crazy in a thousand ways–that’s how anxiety works.

There is no Path. There is no destination. There is nowhere that you are supposed to end up, spiritually speaking. You are already where you need to be. You are already spiritually developed and have been since birth. The mere fact of your existence and your conscious experience is enough to prove that you ARE the mystery and the answer to the mystery. There is nothing you are missing, need to find, or have to track down. Sometimes, we remember who we really are and think that we’ll never lose that revelation. Then we forget. Life is a cycle of remembering our divinity and falling back asleep. There is no achievement, just an awareness.

I don’t even call any of this a Spiritual Awakening anymore. It’s more like a Remembering and a Forgetting. The fact that I remembered some extraordinary events from another lifetime does not mean anything in and of itself. What mattered is how I reacted and responded to the memories flooding back into my consciousness from past lives and this life. The physical effects of this old reality coming back online were quite real and often astounding–I was frequently distracted by my visions and new perceptions. But  it was simply my body adjusting to the realignment of energies flowing through me. That energy might be called Kundalini or perhaps simply Spirit; in any case, we all experience this to one degree or another during transformative moments.

Spirit doesn’t change who you are. It reminds you who you are. Spirit wakes you up; it doesn’t ‘choose’ you, or confer special powers to you. You might change your circumstances, but you’re still who you always were. That’s the moment of realization: the search leads you back to yourself. The Path goes from Point A to Point A. It’s both liberating and depressing: liberating because you can engage in any spiritual practice you choose without worrying that it’s not the ‘right’ one, and depressing if you were hoping that you would be a different person after all the Experiences die down. Nope. You are always you. Always have been, always will be.

Understanding that the Universe loves you for who you are right now, is cause for celebration. That is the true spiritual epiphany.

 

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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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I got sucked into a Mary KayKirsten July 2017

session today. I spent way too much money; discovered that the same products were available online for less than half what I shelled out; and realized yet again, that I’m a sucker when it comes to capitalism, business, and trusting random strangers to have my best interests at heart. Have I learned NOTHING from my previous life? DO NOT TRUST STRANGERS when they want money, sex, or favors. Some lessons, apparently, take lifetimes to learn.

I was worried after my last couple of blog posts that some people might think that I had lost my mind. Maybe the whole Mary Kay visit was about reconnecting with what people think is normal: spending money on cosmetics. Maybe, I thought, I’ll return to myself by spending money on stuff I don’t need to maintain the illusion of youth. This was the wounded Ego desperately trying to return to equilibrium. I want people to think that I am ‘normal’ and not so far off the deep end that I lose readers or end up even more marginalized by our culture than I already am.

Of course, spending money on cosmetics and wrinkle creams did nothing for me but leave me a couple hundred bucks poorer. There is no way to go back to the old, superficial ways of relating to others and Western culture. I’m too far gone, and I simply have to accept that nothing is going to be the same as it was before. If other people are not OK with that, don’t understand it, or pass judgement on me one way or another, then I have to accept that with grace and move forward. Of course, this is all in my head. Nobody has come out and questioned my sanity. Mostly, nobody says anything at all. I get the sense that quite a few people I know are just letting this pass and trying not to say anything for fear of me taking it the wrong way. I know that some people I love think that yes, I am deluded and out of touch with reality.

The problem is that I am IN touch with reality. It’s a reality that most people don’t see or acknowledge; the ones that do are marginalized. But this is my proper place in this culture, and this historical moment. I am on the fringe. I always have been, I always will be, and I have to find my comfort level with that. I will never fit in. I could lie and say that I am OK with that, but it’s simply not true. I would love to buy Mary Kay, get a face lift, play tennis all day, do some volunteer work, read women’s magazines, and go to the movies with my church ladies; but I can’t. It’s a culture of comfort and ease, and my lot is to be uncomfortable, confused, seeking, striving, breaking apart norms and paradigms to the best of my ability, and questioning everything that most people accept as given. For that, most of my time will be spent alone.

I used to laugh at people who believed in fairies, elves, gnomes, aliens, La Llorona, the chupacabra, Big Foot, and various swamp monsters. Now, I think they all exist and are products of our ongoing co-creation of reality. All of it is out there: ghosts, people reliving their time line, people living in alternate dimensions of reality, people reincarnating, souls returning as animals or plants, souls slitting up in various levels of reality, souls in Heaven, souls in Hell, souls reliving the same moment for all eternity, souls everywhere and all over the place experiencing themselves in an infinite variety of ways. There is no one way for consciousness to continue on, but endless ways. That makes paranormal investigations extremely rich and difficult to interpret. We don’t know how the consciousness we pick up on is manifesting itself. Can we know? I don’t know.

Given all of this, how do we meaningfully conduct investigations? How do we know how to interpret the information that we receive? How do we know we’ve contacted a living consciousness on another timeline, and not a gnome or a dark-eyed child or a dark energy that was never human? I have no answers. I will attempt to work on this issue over the next several posts. I thank you all for your patience with me and this long, strange trip.

–Kirsten A. Thorne

 

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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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angel-monument

It’s been awhile, dear readers. So much has been happening in my life that it’s been difficult to organize and express my thoughts. I will do my best, however.

These are the thoughts swirling about my brain:

· Ghosts led me to God;
· God led me to the Catholic Church;
· The Catholic Church has reinforced the reality of spirit in general, and the Holy Spirit in particular;
· I am wondering about the purpose and point of paranormal investigations as a result of the above.

Where to start . . . I suppose that once one accepts the reality of spirit life, or survival of consciousness, one must confront the notion of God. It isn’t as simple as saying to oneself, “I guess God exists”. I had to further define what I understood as God, how s/he works in the world, how God could be human and divine, whether or not I believed that God has anything to do with this world anymore, and most of all, could I accept God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as real and actual, or were they destined to remain metaphors and stories?

The questioning process continues, and likely will continue until I kick this body to the curb. In my particular journey of understanding and faith, I needed more than a nebulous notion of God. He had to either be something real and tangible, or nothing at all. Paranormal investigations had taken me to a certain point: EVP, weird photos, inexplicable personal experiences, accurate impressions from sensitives and psychics, all were valuable and interesting (and, in general, continue to be interesting but less and less valuable) for quite a few years. Then, however, I hit a wall. I have hundreds of EVP. I have a nice collection of weird photos. I have many, many fascinating stories; but they did not reveal anything after a certain point. Paranormal investigations taught me exactly three things about spirit:

· Spirits, human and otherwise, do exist;
· Limited communication is possible;
· Accuracy of communication depends on how fine-tuned is the instrument; you can ramp up your sensitivity through practice and dedication.

That pretty much sums it up. I have had some truly spectacular experiences as an investigator and have some great evidence of spirit communication. But that’s it–the spirits don’t say much that teaches me something about the nature of life after the body. The spirits didn’t answer any burning questions. It’s almost as if they didn’t know themselves, or “they” were simply fragments of an old consciousness hanging out in the ether. Their real selves, the authentic part of them–their soul, if you will–was somewhere else. Either they had already been born again (reincarnated, not in the Christian, evangelical sense) or they were waiting for something to happen in a place where time is irrelevant, or a space where time is irrelevant . . . but then, place and space don’t really exist without time, so perhaps I should say a “dimension” of reality. Waiting. Waiting for what? For a group of ghost hunters to call them into our world for a few moments, so that they can say something nonsensical or trivial?

No, that could not be the answer. Places are ‘haunted’ because of the emotion that they emanate, the energy they continue to emit. Where, however, was this energy, and was it human in any real sense? The spirits we’ve encountered are not fully human. Something fundamental is missing in them. Therefore, what we seek as paranormal investigators is something akin to energy or emotion hunting. The thrill, the adrenaline rush (when it happens, which is not all that often) comes from connecting to feelings that we recognize within ourselves. It’s a communion, of sorts, but not a communion of two, fully formed human beings. The soul is missing from one half of the communication. I had to find the soul. Where was the soul?

In desperation, I finally gave in to an institution that I have been fighting against for decades, a battle that my mother started when she left the Church at 18. When I dragged myself to Saint Bernadine’s, it was with the greatest of reluctance. I know–better than most people, as a Spanish teacher who has spent her entire life studying the crimes and some of the more insidious moral and social teachings of Catholicism–what I am getting myself into. There have been some nasty surprises, and more will surely come my way, but for the most part, my experience with the Church has been liberating, illuminating, deeply emotional and intensely satisfying. Nothing in recent memory has transformed me so deeply in such a short amount of time. In other words, for me, the soul was God, and God expresses herself most profoundly through the teachings of the Trinity and the lives of the saints. This is only a personal declaration. I respect how anyone from any faith or tradition finds God. The point is, find God.

If you know me at all, then you know that my house is filled and covered with images of the Virgin Mary, various saints, and crosses. Jesus shows up every now and again, but I didn’t really know Him very well, so Mary and the saints take center stage. The reasons for this go back to my year in Spain at age 15, where I had my first and most intense conversion to Catholicism. In the intervening 32 years, I simply denied, prevaricated and ignored what the Holy Spirit had communicated to me as a teen. As much as I can pour bile and bitterness on some aspects of the Church, there is simply no other path to God that makes more sense for me on a personal, emotional level. In fact, it has been through the Church that I know understand so much more about the spirit, and what, exactly, I have been doing as an investigator for the last several years.

First of all: There is evil in the world. It is not fictional, metaphorical, or symbolic. There is real, intense, evil in the spirit world. Stay the hell away from it.

Secondly: Without God–or at the very least, a sense of a higher power or transcendence of the body–, paranormal investigations descend into ritual or entertainment.

Thirdly: Paranormal investigations, at least as we currently conduct them with fancy gadgets and the same old questions, are a stage in a journey and not the destination itself.

And lastly: what you can learn from these investigations is fairly limited if you don’t break the mold on a regular bases.

I do struggle these days, but not with God or spirits. I struggle with boredom and distraction during investigations. Once you have ‘crossed over’ to the literal and physical reality of God in your life, once you have experienced the certainty of eternal life and not just expounded the theory, once you have shelved the academic interest and replaced it with spiritual transformation, then what is there left to prove to yourself or anyone else regarding the human transcendence of death? I used to ‘chase ghosts’ to convince others of life after death; then I did it to prove it to myself; now, I wonder what is left to do in this field.

I suppose, paradoxically, what is left to do is to work with the community of investigators on the quality of this life. After all, if ‘ghost hunting’ led me to the Catholic Church, could it do something similar for others? I have no intention of converting anyone to any particular religion; but if I can assist some in their spiritual journey in this manner, then it would be worth it, an honor and a privilege to continue to call myself an investigator.

For truly, I am an investigator. I am also a teacher. I learn as much as I can about the life of the spirit, and I share what I have learned with others who are willing to listen and walk the path with me. I hope that in some small way, the readers of soulbank will be my companions on the most amazing discovery of all time: we have always been, we are, and we always will be.

Amen.

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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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