The mediums that the Society for Psychical Research studied so extensively from 1881 forward paid a price for their gifts. Even a cursory reading of the SPR’s work with mediums reveals health issues and early death as almost an inevitable result of contacting the dead on a daily basis. Mediums tend to have histories of trauma and health issues. The very act of channeling can bring about a debilitation of the spirit. Eusapia Palladino, Eileen Garrett, and even contemporary medium Tyler Henry, all attest to the rigors of mediumship. As Tyler Henry states,
Personal experience bears this out. Although I have always hesitated to label myself as a medium, on occasion, I experience trance-like experiences that I call “meditations”, so that I will not be afraid of what comes through. Most recently, this concerned a ‘vision’ while meditating on a wall by the famous Alhambra in Granada. What I ‘saw’ were men in chain mail and helmets slowly walking up the Cuesta del Rey Chico. They had tunics and helmets emblazoned with a red cross that I had not seen before:
The cross above is quite close to what I saw. The ‘voice’ that informs these meditations said “Calatrava” again and again. I was told (I do not know by whom; this voice simply exists and communicates) that it was the 14th century, or perhaps the 1400’s; and, finally, I saw horses drag up a wooden coffin. The men were exhausted.
I started my research. This was not a simple task, uncovering any possible validity to what I experienced. I finally ran across a paragraph in a PDF that confirmed that the Order of Calatrava was asked to intervene by the Catholic Monarchs in the Conquest of La Alhambra in the 1400’s:(https://www.avghcv.com/gallery/historia%20de%20la%20orden%20de%20calatrava.pdf An image search revealed that I had correctly “seen” their vestments and armor, including the red cross. There was personal information in this session that concerned yet another past life of mine at or near La Alhambra, along with the information that I come back again and again to the same place. “Te conocemos”, I heard, “We know you”.
The next morning, I was utterly depressed, drained, and exhausted. I dragged myself out to tea and following my morning routine; yet, I was unable to shake the distinct feeling of despair, almost a sense of dread. I shared this with my husband, who has seen this reaction before: “it takes a lot out of you”. Yes, “it” does, and I suppose by “it”, I mean a connection with something outside of ordinary experience, with something like a cosmic consciousness. But this “something” communicates with me and with a great many others, as well, and might attempt to reach all of us; my sense is that most people block out the encroachment of the Divine.
“If mind exists, (and I believe it to be universal) the shock of separation from the brain must of necessity . . . within a new vessel experience something akin to a dreaming remembrance of things past. … How much is remembered in the new state of consciousness … does the dragon fly remember his form as the chrysalis of yesterday?” (Eileen Garrett)
I wonder if mediums experience that “shock of separation” of mind from the brain, creating a state of consciousness where everything past, present, and future collide and knowledge is suddenly available. Somehow, this abrupt sense that you have left your body to access the hard drive of the Universe leaves you in a state of overwhelm as you return to your animal existence. It’s a reduction, a tamping down, of what you were in those brief moments when the 1400’s were now.
“I conceive of yesterday, today, and tomorrow as a single curve … time loses reality and the past and present and future are present in one instant … ” (Eileen Garrett)
As this is all quite new to me, at least the conceptualization of one’s consciousness as free from matter during trance states, I am processing how best to handle these alternate realities safely and without losing my sanity in the process. I have enough to worry about with people hearing this and labeling me as weird or crazy. When you access the “single curve” of reality that abolishes time, you are in strange territory, indeed. For it’s one thing to theorize, and quite another to experience; all I can hope for is continued resilience and strength to manage the truths as they come up for me, knowing that I am–and we all are–following a path that leads us to an infinity of possibilities that we barely perceive as we drink our coffees and plan our days.
One of the most terrifying punishments for human beings is isolation from the group, or from a significant other who instills in us a sense of safety and security only to abruptly remove themselves from our lives without explanation. I think of regressive societies casting out women for adultery or “witchcraft”, relegating them to the streets and a life of despair, of “madhouses” and asylums where the suffering were often tortured and abused. In those situations, one’s fear of isolation becomes a matter of life or death; we depend on one another for our survival, and when we are cast out literally or emotionally, materially or spiritually, we believe we will perish. And so, we adapt, conform, “fawn”, and negate our individuality so that the Other will not relegate us to the depths of nothingness. The cycle of acceptance and punishment continues, with the end goal always the same: to wield power and control over someone. This unhealthy relationship we create with individuals, groups, societies, or institutions, or even the so-called “dead” is “traumatic bonding”, defined by Wikipedia as:
In the realm of the paranormal, much of the reported activity in haunted locations centers on an unhealthy attachment to a place, a way of life, an old routine, past relationships, and cherished objects. The spiritual energy of the deceased continues to attach to what was familiar, especially if what was familiar is imbued with pain, confusion, or a sense of outrage or injustice. This is why the majority of hauntings do not involve “happy” spirits peacefully cohabiting with the current occupants of a building or a home, but rather frightening manifestations of rage and sorrow. Consciousness is bonded traumatically to history and emotions that were never processed nor released when the relationships were current; pain plays out eternally, searching for understanding and release.
When spirits attach to an object, you find “cursed” paintings, jewelry, or dolls, as those items absorb and reflect a tortured relationship to the things that made one feel safe in the world. When spirits feed off the energies of the living, items in the house may move, cupboards fly open, mysterious puddles appear, and all manner of chaotic manifestations torment the living. The poltergeist has formed a trauma bond with the living, looking to express its intense emotions through manipulation of the environment. The repetitive re-enactment of old routines and dramas is trauma playing itself out like a movie that never ends; the physical environment records, amplifies, and plays back the old energies. Intelligent hauntings often seek a traumatic bond with the living; in the worst-case scenario, this is a possession of one’s very personality and soul. In less severe cases, this type of haunting seeks to absorb the attention of the living, creating an obsession with communication at the cost of the living’s vital energies.
I witnessed these traumatic bonds between investigators and spirit phenomena at the old Camarillo State Hospital (now the campus of CSUCI) during the time that it was slowly transitioning from one identity to another. In fact, I fell victim to it. My theory is that those of us with a background of severe trauma were both easy targets and receptive audiences for the restless energies of the State Hospital. Those of us with the most “success” at recording astounding EVP and finding photographic evidence of anomalies were almost always the same ones struggling with psychic pain involving mental health issues, typically major depression and anxiety. The entities or energies at the old Hospital found a resonance with our struggles and emotional chaos. We were, in a sense, patients that had not been formally admitted. We were seeking to understand ourselves through the trauma of others, and when our energy matched theirs, the contact was often astounding. In fact, that contact was the reward for our dogged return to the scene of the crime.
However, what was good for an investigation was often bad for us. We ended up, many of us, dragging the psychic sludge and overpowering depression back home with us. We had insomnia, headaches, exhaustion, and even hallucinations while attempting to fall asleep. Camarillo affected me on a physical, spiritual, and emotional level, and yet it was difficult not to return. In strange ways, we formed relationships with people we could not see; and often, we could not identify what we were perceiving as patients, or staff, or even as people. The conversations that we all heard down dark hallways had an eerie, metallic quality that made them sound like recordings from another dimension. In what sense was that “real”? In fact, Camarillo made investigators question the very notion of reality, of what was a “person”, and what was a feeling. Do you become a collection of feelings and habits after death? Do you replay certain scenes from your life over and over again? What, exactly ARE you after death?
Those were questions we were unable to answer. For me, there was no cohesive personality with whom I interacted. The fundamental question of “what” or “who” we are contacting remains unanswered. More to the point is how we define personal identity in this life or the next: do we know who we are and what we will become? Are we communicating with fragments of consciousness, a dissociated memory track, or an actual personality that remains intact?
There is no doubt that death can be traumatic. The transition creates an intense need to “hold on”, and this explains the bond between a spirit and its old environment. The replay of pain and the fear of punishment certainly contributes to the perceived negative environment, as does the relationship between the traumatized investigator and the confused, overwhelmed spirit. That symbiotic relationship can become dangerous for the living, however, as those kinds of relationships cannot be healthy or progress to a higher level of awareness.
I remember an investigation at Camarillo where our teammate, who had been there countless times, asked if anyone remembered him. The clear voice on the recorder said, “Is that all you want?” Indeed, no, it was not all he wanted, nor any of us. And yet, we did not really know what we wanted. We had proven that something persists of human personality and consciousness, and that “something” was capable of communication via our devices and our emotions. I am even hesitant to say that it was a human personality that spoke to us that day, for that is an assumption.
I think we all wanted a relationship with that place and the people that seemed to still be there. But why? My theory now is that we were engaging in the trauma bond, reinforcing the unhealthy and painful cycle of the ghost trapped in the abandoned building. We were often hurt deeply by our interactions with the spirit world, but we could not stop pursuing those communications and experiences. Perhaps we ourselves felt like ghosts in an abandoned building, lost in this world as they were in theirs.
I realized that I could not help “them”, whoever they were, and they clearly could not help us, since we were not clear on our motivations and attachments. There is no way to evolve and transcend this dynamic without a thorough understanding of our desire for contact with traumatized energies. If we don’t heal ourselves first, then we are as trapped and unhappy as those left behind in the former Camarillo State Hospital, and everywhere else we go seeking darkness.
Warning: those will serious mental illness or debilitating PTSD must seek treatment. Nothing I wrote here should detract from that fact. SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Want to know how to heal from trauma? How to recover from abuse? How to become a whole, healthy, integrated, and free human being?
You don’t heal from trauma. You don’t recover from abuse. And very few people will ever be whole, integrated or free. You probably won’t be the human that achieves it, nor will I. If you are someone fascinated by the so-called ‘paranormal’ or like to engage in spiritual pursuits from mediumship to ‘ghost hunting’ to psychedelic use to ritual drumming sessions, you absolutely depend on trauma to feed your hobby or practice. That is the subject of the next post. But for now, this is the point: spirituality is born of trauma and our efforts to “integrate” and “overcome” it reveal more about our biases as a culture and our desires to monetize every human need than a sincere desire to increase happiness.
Why is Weight Watchers so successful? Why does the “wellness” industry that runs rampant in California do so . . . well? Because these institutions, ideologies, and belief systems DO NOT WORK. Because they do not work, either to keep your weight down or to integrate your trauma, they make a lot of money. Psychedelics, the ultimate “healing” modality for your terrible childhood, are quickly being monetized–because it’s not one good trip and you’re done, or a few weeks in your Reiki circle, or a few years in integrative therapy, it’s FOREVER. The people making money from your pain know perfectly well that healing isn’t going to happen, not the way most people expect it will; that your happiness will continue to be as elusive as it ever was, and therefore, you will ramp it up: more therapy, different ‘healing’ modalities, stronger psychedelic trips in more expensive ‘containers’, and more classes that take cultural appropriation to new lows (shamanic journey Meetups, Ayahuasca ceremonies, African drumming circles). None of it will solve the “problems” that you are told can be solved: memories of childhood trauma, varying levels of abuse, CPTSD, and substance dependence (food, alcohol, drugs), not to mention the garden variety depressions, anxieties, and existential dread.
Why can’t all of the above, all that makes us sad, angry, or confused, be fixed? Why can’t we integrate it, heal it, overcome it, and “let it go”? Simply because upsetting events in our past have contributed to who we are now; trauma is something most of us endure, and it’s not some separate element that can be extricated from us like pus from a wound. There are ways to lessen our automatic emotional responses to a discreet, awful memory, but to pretend that an overall ‘fix’ exists, abuses people’s trust and takes their money. The wellness communities hold out a promise of ‘wholeness’ that depends on the ideology of “healing”, a word that loses its meaning when nobody talks about what healing feels like, what it looks like, how it might manifest itself. Perhaps if we delve deeper into what we mean by healing, fewer people would blame themselves for their lack of happiness and pile on shame and self loathing to the pain they already endure.
For that is the real cost. We turn to wellness communities, psychedelic integration circles, retreats, shamanic practices, therapy, and a host of other modalities to relieve emotional and spiritual pain. We often come away feeling that it’s our fault that we have failed to ‘heal’. Somehow, we made a mistake along the way: the dose wasn’t high enough, we didn’t enter the desired trance state, our ecstatic dancing wasn’t ecstatic enough, we didn’t “LET GO” (this is a big one, the one concept that really hurts us), we failed to “surrender” to whatever the experience was, we didn’t let someone “in”, we lacked trust, faith, openness, or whatever else we were supposed to have/do, and the result is: we are not good enough in one way or another. This echoes our dysfunctional childhood messages and traumatizes yet again, this time at the hands of those who purport to heal us.
Let me take this opportunity to call bullshit.
All of the wellness, psychedelic, and therapeutic practices I have mentioned could help you–but not to become a “better person”, a “healed” person, or a “whole” person, free from pain and trauma; the best that they can do is help you accept yourself as a product of many influences, experiences, relationships, and conflicts you have endured over the decades, and perhaps tamp down the emotional chaos that they still inspire. Perhaps. I am not even sure anymore that you can control or redirect your emotions around highly-charged situations and events. I wonder; even long after I considered myself “above” the anxiety that my family has created over my lifetime and “healed” from the medical horrors I endured as a child, I still don’t feel that I control the emotional responses that boil up and over when I am powerfully reminded of my past.
The expectation that I not react emotionally and physically to traumatic situations and associations was and is worse than the original sins. Traumatic situations happen continuously, both on a personal and planetary level–to be alive is to be on alert for bad things that lurk everywhere. You can’t cure that.
Perhaps, as a culture, we have focused far too much on what hurts us and the phantom healing that we need (remember, the more healing you promise, the more money you make) than what is pleasurable, delightful, beautiful, and inspiring. Will we do any good in the world for ourselves or others, or for our little planet, by excessively focusing on all the terrible crap we endured? Is there a tad of narcissism in all of this exploration of personal tragedy and how to overcome it? Where is our concern for the community and our larger families? Why are we not focusing on healing our racial, economic and cultural divisions instead of our personal horror stories? We heal ourselves insofar as we join the messiness of the human community and see how we can be of service. Maybe that’s the only healing that might exist.
It’s not surprising that the United States monetizes wellness and healing, since most of our collective endeavors are about making money. The religion of materialism and capitalism keeps us in thrall to the possibility of living very well while desperate, unhappy people hand us the keys to our mansion. And of course, there are good people who simply try to help and make a living at the same time, but watch out for the predators, for they are everywhere.
Instead of overcoming your trauma, try accepting exactly who you are right now and how you feel. Imagine that there was no shame connected to sadness or grief. Imagine that it’s just as valid to feel confused and unhappy as it is to feel blissful and one with the universe. Imagine that you are one with the universe and completely loved just as you are, with all your trauma, pain, and disappointment. Our spiritual nature reveals itself through the cracks, the breaks, and the falling apart of what we think and hope that we are.
P.S. I have nothing against ecstatic dancing, but if you see me writing around naked under the moon, call for help.
Last August 20th, (2021) my husband’s father died. As I write this, the one-year anniversary is fast approaching. If you read my previous posts, you know that there was a great deal of energy around that passing–messages received by multiple family members, premonitions, spirit messages and visitations, Another day, I will write about the messages that all the siblings received–three knocks at a door, on top of a car, or from seemingly nowhere. Those incidents are still so overwhelming that the family can’t open up about it yet publicly. When they are ready, I will write about it. The facts surrounding these communications are so evidential as to merit serious study. But all in its time.
After my father-in-law passed, my husband and I left for Spain for three months. While we were there, my husband heard the three knocks at the front door and went flying out of the shower to answer the door. Of course, there was nobody there and nobody on the little street as far as the eye could see. On multiple occasions, I could swear that Ron was walking down a street in Granada; the gait would be the same, the hair, the profile, everything would be identical to him. Then he would turn around, and my father in law faded out–it was not a sudden realization that it wasn’t him, but his features, his frame, his entire physical presence would be gradually replaced by someone else. Of course, this could be considered some form of hallucination, but it happened on several occasions, and I was not compromised by any substance; in fact, this would happen when I wasn’t even thinking about him.
We returned to the States in December. That Christmas was, in a word, emotional. The grief spilled over into family dissent and sadness, The house looked stunning, beautiful; a Christmas dream. But underneath it all, everyone was sick with loss and confusion. Ron still came through in various ways–my sister in law could still hear his voice in their house, mysterious moths appeared in odd places and times, and during my meditations, he would occasionally ‘drop in’.
We returned to Granada in March and stayed another three months. During this time, my husband had a vivid dream about his father that left him violently shaking in our bed. His father had come to him, in his normal, physical form, and told Ty that he was “pure energy” and that everything was energy. He had messages for him that I must keep private. This was no dream, Ty said; his father was present, abundantly alive, and communicating to us that we are all composed of energy that never dies. Ty was different after that; his grief nearly disappeared.
I still felt him around Granada, but the sense of his presence diminished after that dream visitation. He seemed to send “butterfly messages” when we took side trips to the Spanish coast. I have videos of such odd and out-of-character butterfly behavior while we were wandering around a castle in Salobreña (if anyone is interested, I am happy to post it). But mostly, Ron appeared to have moved on, as his contacts were becoming less and less frequent.
We returned home to spend the summer in California and eat iced cream with my nieces and nephew. Ty’s dad remained quiet. I thought that perhaps it was over, and then yesterday, almost a year after his death, something strange happened. This is where I need some guidance and understanding. I don’t know what the following ‘means’; I don’t even know if it has anything to do with Ron’s death. I will write it out as it happened; and I hope someone would be willing to comment.
I was sitting in my overly-hot house yesterday, doing pretty much nothing but scrolling through emails, when I heard the odd sound of bells ringing. The ringing was quick and constant, like an old-fashioned, muted, continuous phone bell. I wandered around looking for the source, and I found it: it was indeed a phone, a very old phone from my grandmother’s house, that hasn’t been connected to anything for multiple decades. There is a hand crank that can make the phone bells ring, but that crank is broken, and the ringing was too fast and continuous for that, anyway. Here is the audio (please wear headphones and turn up the volume):
Several people I sent that clip to hear EVP as well, but I hesitate to “go there”, due to the fact that they are whispered and fast, and most people will not hear anything. If you do after reviewing this clip with headphones, please let me know in the comments. I really would like to know.
At the same time the phone was ringing, a facial device started beeping from the bathroom. It had turned itself on. That, once again, should be impossible, as you must press and hold down a button for a couple of seconds in order for it to work. It has never done that before, and it works fine now. I turned it off, thoroughly spooked, and listened to a second clip that I recorded to see if anything showed up. There is a whispered sentence after I say “I love you”. Skip ahead to 10 seconds from the end. I don’t expect anyone without great headphones and some patience to hear what I did–but I invite you to try:
I haven’t felt quite comfortable in my house since yesterday. Something is clearly going on. You could call it some kind of bizarre electrical interference, or you could ascribe some meaning to it. I always hear the skeptic voice in my head, telling me that there is an explanation for all of this, even if I can’t find it right now. But intuitively, I know that something of a spiritual nature is happening. The day before yesterday, I awoke after dreaming of all my dead (male) relatives to a phone message from my sister-in-law, informing me of the following: “Yesterday, today and tomorrow are the Japanese “Obon”, when the veil is thinnest, and in the Buddhist tradition we welcome our deceased loved ones to come visit before we send them, once again, on their way”.
I don’t tell anyone what to believe. I don’t demand that you hear the EVP that I did, or that you believe that a broken telephone that hasn’t rung for many decades was ringing for spiritual reasons. I don’t ask that you believe in “Obon” or in the significance of devices turning themselves on when a lot of other bizarre things are happening at the same time. I don’t ask that you believe that my dead father in law would send butterflies to far-away places to signal his presence. All I ask is that you think about what happened to me, and perhaps be willing to tell me if anything like this has happened to you.
If we shut out everything but the material world, we are missing something that connects us to our soul.
So. You see Matt Fraser here? Happy? Radiant? Beaming with spiritual energy? And those teeth! They shine like Heaven. He is everything that I am not, right now.
My teeth have tea stains. My aura is dull. My eyes are dim and red rimmed with allergies. My spiritual energy has vanished; no more psychedelic experiences during meditation, and to be honest, I don’t meditate much anymore. I’m depressed from the inside out, and my spirit guides have left on vacation, or they are not interested in my heavy vibes, or maybe they have better things to do. So, what happened?
I trace this back to a death in the family. Someone close, very close, to my husband and me bid the world farewell on August 20th, 2021. What followed were a flurry of communications from him, many of which were stunningly accurate (see my last post). I saw him in meditation, I felt him, there was connection. On this one particular day, I decided to meditate in order to see how he was doing out there in the spirit world, and he showed up more clearly than ever. One of the things that he asked me to do was locate “Bob Berman”. Finally–a name. I had something specific, something tangible, to take to the grieving widow. So I sent her the information via email. I was sure that the name would ring a bell; she would be overwhelmed with my accuracy and skills, find the person in questions, and some kind of healing would ensue.
Here is Bob Berman. He is an American “astronomer, author, and science popularizer” who was the coauthor of one of Robert Lanza’s books, Beyond Biocentrism, a book I had been reading at the time. My relatives had no idea who this gentleman was, and he did not appear as a contact anywhere in my in-law’s extensive files. My in-law kept meticulous files on anyone and everyone he met. So if Bob Berman did not appear in his virtual and actual Rolodex, he had never met him.
What that means, of course, is that my subconscious mind–searching for information, looking to fill in the gaps–had provided me with this tidbit of useless and damning information. I had made it all up, after all. Not knowingly, not intentionally, and certainly not with the goal of making me look impressive as a medium, because it had the opposite effect: I feel now that I have no right to practice this art. And since that day, when the Berman Bomb dropped, I have stopped doing readings of any kind.
I suppose that I could give myself a break, tell myself that every medium has a bad day, but this was a particularly chilling revelation, and it led to the inevitable question: how much of the information I receive is genuine? How much is gleaned from my subconscious mind? How much is just vague or general enough to please eager relatives and friends who want to hear from a loved one? I have an impressive “hit” gallery, but then again, every reading is a combination of intuitive guesswork, material from the recesses of my mind, and something else that doesn’t have easy explanations.
It’s the “something else” that used to keep me going, that source of information that never revealed itself. However, it’s hard to trust the Universe when you keep confusing your signals. Mediumship, like everything else, requires discipline and practice. If a loss is a very personal one, it makes sense that your emotions might get in the way of a good and objective reading. I desperately wanted to help my family find some kind of closure, and perhaps that desire clouded my ability to connect. Or, perhaps there really IS some sort of Bob Berman connection that I have yet to discover. After all, the information from “Bob” was accurate. It was only the name that didn’t work.
There are many blocks to communicating with spirit. The first one is believing in yourself, trusting that you have real, tangible skills. The second is trying to hard and filling in the blanks when you are receiving little or nothing. Sometimes, you cannot connect, and you will not know why. Other times, you will connect immediately when you weren’t really trying. Third: you don’t practice or you give up too soon. There was no reason really to abandon my readings. I think grief and ongoing shock are affecting my system and my skills. My in law contacted me so clearly and so directly that I was caught off guard, and perhaps a little frightened. That brings me to perhaps my #1 reason for giving up: Fear.
In my case, it’s fear of accuracy–it’s fear of successful communication. Something about my best readings terrified me. I didn’t know how the process ‘worked’ or what was working through me, because it wasn’t so simple to say simply “God”–there were multiple ‘helpers’ involved, but I couldn’t see them or know their identity, only that I could intuit their existence. It’s all so maddeningly vague, so hard to pinpoint or identify, it’s like an endless pursuit of something that only reveals itself on occasion and for brief moments in time.
If anyone out there has experienced the fear of contact with the Other Side, or has blundered in a reading, or has become despondent attempting to understand What the Hell is Going On, please contact me. I would love to hear from you.
Yesterday, after receiving the news that a dear relative was on their deathbed, I was able to communicate to them during meditation. I received clear and detailed messages, one of which concerned the appearance of a dove: that would be the sign that my loved one had passed over and was fine. I went to lunch and while gazing at the tiny birds on the patio, I had a very strange sensation; my mind felt like it was somehow expanding, my consciousness altering, and my reality breaking down. I heard a high pitched sound in my ears that deafened me for a moment. I started to panic, but told myself in that moment that what I was experiencing could be a spiritual communication. I calmed down and gradually returned to normal. The experience was clear; my interpretation of it was the issue.
I decided that what I had experienced was the moment my loved one had passed. I looked online to see if there was any information on the high pitched noise I heard and somewhere I read that “spirit was trying to communicate with me” and that I needed to look for a sign. So I set out for home, searching everywhere for the white dove that my relative had said they chose. I didn’t see any white birds, but as I rounded the corner to my back door, a white feather floated down in front of my face. I grabbed it and ran inside, feeling euphoria and shock that my loved one had sent me this feather as proof that they had made it safely to the Other Side. I was a bit disturbed by the fact that the feather wasn’t completely white; there was some gray on the bottom half, but after searching for “dove feathers” online, I noticed that dove feathers do indeed have a little gray in them. So I placed the feather on the fridge and celebrated the joyous reunion of my family member with God. I thanked them for the sign.
But my dear one had not died. In fact, they were feeling a bit better and had committed to an experimental medication that might buy them a few more weeks or months. They were talking and hanging out with their kids.
The first emotion: shame. Then embarrassment. Then doubt. Then a dose of self hatred for not “intuiting” that this person had not died. I was, to put it mildly, in quite a state of confusion and upset. I had, at the very least, misinterpreted the signs I had received, and the communication that I had with my loved one. Worst case scenario, my messages were simply acts of creative imagination; the weird feelings and high pitched noise were signs of allergies and sinus trouble, and the floating feather was simply a random coincidence in an area filled with lots of birds. The middle ground tells me that the communication and signs were real, but that I had misinterpreted what they meant. My family member is between two worlds every day now; sometimes they are lucid and communicative, and other times they are far away in a world that we cannot access; except that I did access it, briefly, and was able to have a conversation with them in that state.
What you believe in this case reflects who you are and not who I am. It reflects what you believe about human consciousness, telepathy, angels and spirits, signs from other realms and higher intelligence, and simply whether or not you are a committed materialist, a curious seeker of knowledge, or someone who has experienced first hand the varieties of anomalous experience.
Mediums are often despised and ridiculed, and I am loathe to admit to anyone that I have any skill in this area. But I do. And usually, this gift does not fail like it did yesterday. And if this gift did not fail, I’m not sure how it worked. I have written before about how the information that mediums receive is not foolproof; there are ups and downs and crossed wires when you attempt to read someone or allow communication with the ‘deceased’. Stunningly accurate information can flow through you easily, and then it stops, leaving you with vague impressions that don’t make sense or worse yet, readings that turn out to have been meaningless for your client. I don’t know how my intuition works or where the information comes from. I simply cannot explain it, just as I cannot explain why it sometimes fails or derails. It is possible that we pick up on people with whom we had no intention of contacting; and yet, when I say that, the skeptics accuse me of covering up or justifying my fraudulent practices.
I sometimes despise my ability to read people and communicate with those in spirit (we are all in spirit, by the way, but some of us lack a body). It goes against my academic training, my critical thinking skills, my family’s beliefs, and tends to confirm what my parents said about me growing up: “she makes shit up” and “she lives in her own reality” and “she’s fantasy prone” and finally, “she has a BIG imagination”. When I think about those messages growing up, and the countless times I have suffered at work or with friends when I’m “outed” as a medium or investigator, I simply want to stop; to forget the fact that most of the time, I am spot on. Most of the time, I know things about people that I shouldn’t know by normal means. Shame creeps in to my soul, and I wonder why I have this “gift” in the first place. Especially because this gift is not always reliable or easy to interpret for myself or others.
I do not know if my loved one actually communicated with me while they were deep in slumber, experiencing vivid dreams. I am not allowed in the hospital room with them, since I am not immediate family. I do not plan on asking my family to question them regarding this communication issue, when they are deep in the process of managing the multiple indignities of a dying body. My need for proof must never outweigh the basic survival needs of my family member. That means, no proof for anyone else, either. However, I understand that what others might accept as proof varies considerably, and that there are those who will never believe in such things as feathers from a loved one or communication with the dead. Or the living, for that matter.
I have no resolution to offer here. No evidence to shock anyone; no final thoughts on the role of mediums and psychics in our culture, and certainly no solution to my own sadness and shame around serving as a medium in a culture that despises what I do and who I am. Maybe some of you can offer your advice and observations on this topic. I would welcome that.
Kirsten A Thorne, PhD
POSTSCRIPT: That day, as it turned out, was the very day that my dear one decided to give up the fight. At the moment I thought I had they had passed away, they were deep in a deep sleep experiencing vivid dreams. This was after they had decided to die. One of my in-laws had received messages from his the same day that I did, with signs to bizarre to ignore (but that is her story, and I will leave it to her to tell it if she wishes). So my relative had indeed left their body and was communicating with me and my in-law on the same day. What I though was a failure of my mediumship was, in reality, a simple demonstration that the spirit can leave the body before the body slips away. I learned that death is not a one-time event, but a long, drawn-out process where one’s spirit comes and goes, in preparation for the ultimate goodbye. This has left me stunned and humbled by how little we know of human consciousness and how it works outside of the constraints of a physical body. R.I.P. RMS.
I was reading Robert Lanza’s new book, The Grand Biocentric Design recently, focusing especially on his discussion of the Quantum Suicide paradox and Everett’s multiverse. Briefly, here is the thought experiment summarized:
”A man sits down before a gun, which is pointed at his head. This is no ordinary gun; it is rigged to a machine that measures the spin of a quantum particle. Each time the trigger is pulled, the spin of the quantum particle — or quark — is measured. Depending on the measurement, the gun will either fire, or it won’t. If the quantum particle is measured as spinning in a clockwise motion, the gun will fire. If the quark is spinning counterclockwise, the gun won’t go off. There’ll only be a click.
Nervously, the man takes a breath and pulls the trigger. The gun clicks. He pulls the trigger again. Click. And again: click. The man will continue to pull the trigger again and again with the same result: The gun won’t fire. Although it’s functioning properly and loaded with bullets, no matter how many times he pulls the trigger, the gun will never fire. He’ll continue this process for eternity, becoming immortal.
Go back in time to the beginning of the experiment. The man pulls the trigger for the very first time, and the quark is now measured as spinning clockwise. The gun fires. The man is dead.
But, wait. The man already pulled the trigger the first time — and an infinite amount of times following that — and we already know the gun didn’t fire. How can the man be dead? The man is unaware, but he’s both alive and dead. Each time he pulls the trigger, the universe is split in two. It will continue to split, again and again, each time the trigger is pulled [source: Tegmark].
What this means is that your awareness, your conscious experience, can never not exist. You will always be aware of yourself in some iteration of the world–or, as Lanza states, “The enigmatic issue of death should therefore be understood within the thesis that wave function, relative to an observer and representing his experiences of the world that he lives in, can never cease to exist, and that from an observer’s first-person perspective, there is no death. The observer is always aware of something.” (126) You cannot be aware of yourself as not existing, and since conscious awareness, according to Lanza, is what creates our reality and our worlds in the first place, nonexistence is simply impossible. This, of course, is a very superficial and brief summary of Lanza’s Biocentrism thesis about life creating reality (not the other way around), but the idea that conscious awareness will always play itself out in one form or another is certainly not new or original to Lanza. Whichever theory one chooses to explain the persistence of human consciousness, it remains true that the evidence for our ‘eternity’ is overwhelming. It occurs to me that in the absence of objective time (and this is not a radical idea, but well supported by contemporary physics), all you experience is a continual “now” that appears to change. You can be aware what you believe to be your final moments, but you cannot experience the absence of experience. There is always a conscious observer even in the absence of a supporting, physical system.
What happens, then, when we “lose consciousness”? We never experience the loss; we can’t be aware of no awareness. I remember waking up from my many surgeries. There was no gap in my experience of myself–one moment I was going under and the next, I was coming to in the recovery room. I imagine that death is like that. You are aware of taking your last breath, and then aware of taking your first. The Many Worlds theory creates some fantastic and mind-boggling possibilities here–you could return to a previous state of consciousness in your same body with similar circumstances, or you could wake up as somebody else, but have no idea that you are not simply who you always were. In other words, all consciousness is one and shared; you will experience yourself in a similar way in a variety of bodies, in various circumstances, and at diverse ages. This is where Lanza comes close to the theory of reincarnation, which Biocentrism would explain quite well.
I have had many personal experiences that involve memories of other lives and even an awareness that my lifeline had ‘split’ into another version of myself. In one of my many near death experiences, I remember ‘coming back’ with a sense that I had died after my body shut down due to anaphylaxis (an extreme allergic reaction). Even though my circumstances appeared similar, I noticed slight details that were “off” from my previous sense of myself and my world; I started to wonder if had indeed died in that other world and was now experiencing another reality where my awareness was reinstated in another scenario where I had survived. In fact, every time I woke up from a surgery, an accident, or a near death experience, I had an uncanny feeling that I was starting over, rebooting my awareness in another lifeline. Of course, at the time, I did not have the vocabulary or the theory to understand what that eerie feeling of having died and returned was about, how it could have possibly happened. Biocentrism and the Many Worlds theories make sense of it. Lanza weaves the two theories together to overcome the many objections; namely, that quantum processes do not apply at the macro level of, say, human consciousness. It’s his argument that human consciousness creates the entire scope of reality to begin with, so there is no logical contradiction.
What are the emotional and spiritual implications of never ending awareness? For many, that sounds like a kind of existential torture. We have, however, the gift of forgetting. It’s quite clear to me that to remember everything that we are, to be aware of our multiple iterations or reincarnated selves, would be hellish. Our brains function as reducing valves for consciousness, so that we can focus on a particular set of circumstances and a unique identity. We are limited in our perspective and scope; the mistake mainstream science makes is to assume that our current limitations represent the whole of reality.
There is still a dizzying effect from contemplating the truth of immortality, if by that term you mean continuing conscious awareness. You are always you, in whatever form you may experience yourself. There is no “sweet release”, no oblivion, no end point. There may be a Heaven, but it will be just another world that maybe you will be lucky enough, evolved enough, or conscious enough to experience as your current reality. I don’t know how I feel about this information, but I know that it makes sense of my personal experiences and squares with my intuition about my life. The issue that I have with this never-ending parade of lives and experiences is that sometimes, I just want an end point, a sense that I’ve “arrived” instead of continuous departures towards new (or perhaps the same?) adventures.
How does this knowledge change one’s perspective on the day-to-day reality of existence? Oddly enough, the challenges of living remain the same for me. Knowing that I will always be aware of myself doesn’t alter the fact that life here, right now, is often confusing and difficult. I don’t see quantum immortality or any other kind of immortality as a solution to the challenges and the pain that life continuously throws our way. The fact that said challenges never end is rather overwhelming. I suppose that one outcome could be to see even the most dire of circumstances as simply another scenario in a series of infinite possibilities; perhaps that could take the sting out of the feeling that your one and only world is doomed. Perhaps we are only aware of one set of circumstances because the challenge lies there. We all, individually and collectively, have to learn to care for each other and our planet. Put simply, if we fail this test, we are provided endless opportunities to get it right. But “get it right”, we must. We have created a scenario where our very planet is unable to sustain us. And although the idea that we can perhaps escape this reality seems attractive, I imagine dying and waking up to the same, damn problems that we still haven’t solved.
Until we learn our cosmic lessons, it seems, we are going to live out Groundhog Day for a long, long, time.
I live in the heart of the old Santa Susana Pass area, just to the south on a one-lane road to nowhere. Never, in all my life, have I lived anywhere that so richly deserves the label “haunted”. I have a great deal to say about what that means, but there is no way to understand this particular haunting without some background. History first.
The Santa Susana Mountains were once home to several Native American tribes, including Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians, the Kizh Nation and Barbareño, Ineseño, and Ventureño Chumash. Traces of their footpaths still run through this area, and there are protected pictographs in caves near Burro Flats, a site that no unauthorized person is allowed to view. Their location is a secret; they are somewhere near the old Santa Susana Field Laboratory, site of the worst nuclear disaster in United States history (1959).
From 1871 to the turn of the century, the stagecoaches followed a terrifying canyon road up from what is today Chatsworth Park all the way to Los Angeles Avenue in Simi Valley. You can still walk what was once the old stagecoach road and appreciate the sheer panic that travelers must have felt wrangling horses and coaches up and down the treacherous terrain. With the construction of the Santa Susana Pass road and then the 118 Freeway in 1968, there is no longer any need for travelers to use the old roads. Walking through the Santa Susana Mountains, however, you still feel the layers of history, trauma and tragedy that played out over the centuries.
The area that includes Topanga Canyon to the east, the 118 to the north, Bell Canyon to the south, and Madera Road in Simi to the west, radiates a peculiar energy–especially Box Canyon, a road and canyon named after the colloquial term for a coffin. I could write multiple posts on that area alone, but for the sake of this introduction to the most haunted land in Southern California, I will simply list some of the more bizarre and tragic aspects of its history:
Charles Manson and his ‘family’ occupied Spahn Ranch, a tract of land just off the current Santa Susana Pass Road, for much of 1968 and 1969. It is here that he conceived of his “Helter Skelter” conspiracy theory and plan. Just off the side of Santa Susana Pass Road is the “Manson family cave”, where he took an infamous photo with his cursed ‘family’. I have explored that area and find it utterly unnerving. There is a tree next to the cave that is rumored to have served as a ‘hanging tree’ in the Old West days; in any case, the energy is dark and threatening. Several paranormal investigators have caught frightening electronic voices on digital recorders in that area.
The nuclear meltdowns at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory: This is one of the biggest, buried stories in United States history. Read this from Wikipedia:
Throughout the years, about ten low-power nuclear reactors operated at SSFL, in addition to several “critical facilities” that helped develop nuclear science and applications. At least four of the ten nuclear reactors had accidents during their operation. The reactors located on the grounds of SSFL were considered experimental, and therefore had no containment structures.
The site ceased research and development operations in 2006. The years of rocket testing, nuclear reactor testing, and liquid metal research have left the site “significantly contaminated”. Environmental cleanup is ongoing.
The public who live near the site have over the years strongly urged a thorough cleanup of the site, citing cases of long term illnesses, including cancer cases at rates they claim are higher than normal. On 30 March 2018, a 7-year-old girl living in Simi Valley died of neuroblastoma, prompting public urging to thoroughly clean up the site; despite the fact that there is insufficient evidence to identify an explicit link between cancer rates and radioactive contamination in the area.
Did you not know about this? Most people do not. The radioactive gas from the partial meltdown of the Sodium Reactor covered a huge area of Simi Valley, the west San Fernando Valley, Bell Canyon, West Hills, and surrounding areas. Cancer rates, especially thyroid and blood cancers known to be related to exposure to nuclear contamination, are several times what would be expected in a ‘normal’ population. In my own extended family, there are multiple cases of blood and thyroid cancers that, we all suspect, have much to do with living near the SSFL for decades.
3. Multiple cults flourished in this area in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The “Fountain of the World” was founded in 1951 in Box Canyon, and the site remains today. In 1958, two ex-acolytes of the cult bombed the buildings. killing eight people. The old sign is still there, fallen on one side, a reminder of the blast. The cult lingered until the 1980’s, and is now just a tragic memory. For more on this, see: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/box-canyon
4. Standard Airlines C-46 crashed into the Santa Susana Mountains (5 minutes walking from my house) in 1949. 35 people died in the crash. Among the survivors was Caren Marsh Doll, an actress who was interviewed afterwards.
There is more, much more, that I could write about about this area’s peculiar history. This is simply a brief introduction to an area that is a very odd and unsettling place to call home. Today, these mountains contain Chatsworth Park (North and South), the Santa Susana Pass State Historical Park, and a few, scattered neighborhoods that sprung up around canyon roads and passes. Of particular note is the Santa Susana Knolls area of Simi Valley, site of the old train station, and perilously near the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (see above). I live on one of those streets that cuts into the mountains, a street that becomes a dirt road that is nearly impassible for those without big trucks with 4WD. When fire season comes along, there is only one escape route for us, and if that is blocked, we are in big trouble.
My street houses eclectic characters and houses. There are mobile homes in various states of disrepair, and enormous mansions that periodically hit the market for millions of dollars. There are abandoned homes, and new homes that spring up like mushrooms whenever the landowner is flush with cash. These days, that is one person who owns a contracting company, of course. There are misanthropes who want nothing to do with any of us, and there are social butterflies who walk their dogs in search of company–but mostly, people moved here to be alone. In the area by the plane crash, people live off the grid. You do not want to trespass, trust me–there are large dogs and plenty of guns to keep the curious at bay. Even now, years after we moved there, beat up trucks will slow down and eye me suspiciously, requiring me to explain why I am walking back there. The Moorpark sheriff’s vehicle makes frequent visits to clear out suspicious characters engaging in suspicious activities. There is always some kind of construction happening in the land around the plane crash site, almost all of it illegal and unpermitted. A giant yurt and campground was closed down, a housing development was halted, a drug ring was busted, and the list goes on.
The constant legal wrangling and the tension among the neighbors seem to mirror the area’s troubled past. Walking around the dirt streets, you always feel watched; both by the current inhabitants who don’t want you there, and by something else. The Native American energy up in the hills is so palpable that you find yourself constantly scanning the boulders and ravines to see who is keeping tabs on you. The plane crash site feels desolate, mysterious, and tragic. There are still some pieces of the place embedded in the dirt.
I have spent countless hours wandering those hills, and I never feel alone. Someone or something unseen is following me everywhere I go. Sometimes, this spiritual energy feels curious or watchful, but other times there is a distinct threat that permeates the environment, and expels me from my wanderings. Anyone who is even remotely sensitive to their environment feels the heaviness, the mysterious sense of having invaded someone else’s land, and the knowledge that you are an outsider. It is this ‘outsider’ feeling that makes it a challenge to live there. There is no community for someone like me, no welcoming band of happy neighbors; we respect each other’s privacy and keep our distance. There is also no natural connection to the place–I am not native to the area, not a long-time resident, and not someone who was invited in. In other words, I am another invader in a long line of invaders.
Of course, one could probably say the same about most of the United States. We occupied this land illegally, and our claim to it is based on violence and oppression. But there are places that are scarred more than others, places that have experienced multiple tragedies on a large scale. Those tragedies leave a deep wound that permeates the land and creates residual energies that never fade, never die. That is the perfect recipe for a haunting.
Paranormal investigators often think that they would love to live in a haunted house, or on the site of some horrific battle. What you discover when you actually occupy either a haunted house or haunted land is simply this: it’s exhausting, draining. Your mental, emotional, and spiritual energy is siphoned off in the very act of wandering through the hills and valleys, the dirt roads and the ruins of old settlements. The Santa Susana Mountains are both beautiful and harsh; mysterious and ominous. You don’t need to be “sensitive” to feel the oppressive and weird vibes emanating from the secret places in the hills that you avoid yet feel continuously drawn towards.
I’m tired even writing about it. If you want to visit one of the most haunted areas in California, start by parking your car in Chatsworth Park North. Walk past the circular jogging path and head into the hills. Keep going. Around sunset, pick a boulder and sit there. Observe. Meditate. Listen. The ghosts will find you.
A very personal post, but worth sharing for those who feel that pursuing what you want is selfish or morally questionable. It’s time to be who you are, finally. If the last year and 1/2 taught us anything, it’s that time is short, and we must not waste the precious time we have left.
Nothing is more difficult for me than accepting what I want. Do I have a destination on this journey? I don’t know; but I keep moving towards something that seems both elusive and thrillingly possible.
Women are typically raised to fulfill the needs of others: husbands, partners, children, supervisors, students, extended family, pets, and anyone else who we can help, save, or serve. I would love to say that this is some antiquated notion that no longer applies, but I see this in myself, my students, my family, and my friends. We exist for so long to make someone else’s existence easier. In the process, we forget who we are and we can’t name what we want. If we do, if we can, we feel searing guilt around placing ourselves “first”, not thinking that those around us are doing that very thing, unworried that they are not serving us or…
In Season 5, Episode 2 of “Kindred Spirits”, investigators Amy Bruni and Adam Berry suspect that “zombie boy”–a supposed ghost that was ramping up activity and scaring investigators at a Massachusetts estate–is a creation of the very people who so fervently believe in him. Much like “Phillip”, the invented ghost from a series of seances in the 1970’s, “zombie boy” had started to appear to investigators and even possess one of them. The photos provided as evidence of his existence were unconvincing to Amy Bruni, and after a few frustrating attempts to figure out his identity, it is she who starts to wonder if “zombie boy” might be an “egregore”:
“Egregore is an occult concept representing a distinct non-physical entity that arises from a collective group of people. Historically, the concept referred to angelic beings, or watchers, and the specific rituals and practices associated with them, namely within Enochian traditions”
In contemporary, paranormal circles an ‘egregore’ has come to mean any entity that manifests as a result of the collective efforts to conjure or investigate it. Amy and Adam decide to test their theory by providing ‘zombie boy’ with a back story. They create a family tree and a Civil War tragedy, and lo and behold! The EVP sessions yield back exactly the names of zombie boy’s parents, and Chip Coffey picks up on his story remotely during the investigation into another area of the property.
Zombie boy is a multi-layered entity created first by paranormal investigators who believed in his existence based on others’ evidence, and rounded out by Amy and Adam who suspected that he was not an independent being, after all. Then, zombie boy comes to life and answers questions about his invented upbringing correctly, and a psychic hundreds of miles away picks up on the details of his fabricated story.
Amy, quite appropriately, expresses shock and awe, and wonders what this means for paranormal investigations and for our lives as humans on this planet. How much of what we experience is created by us? Are the ghosts we seek simply aspects of our collective consciousness responding to our desires, our needs, our assumptions, and our emotions? Are we, during paranormal investigations, simply hearing what we expect to hear? Is the Other us?
I have always objected to the idea that we create our own reality, because it seems to suggest that individuals are responsible in some way for grim realities such as cancer, poverty, domestic violence, genocide, and disastrous cultural and political situations that are beyond anyone’s control. We don’t ‘create’ those realities, but I suppose we are responsible for our reactions to them. However, if your child is murdered in a bloody and pointless war, HOW are you supposed to react? How do you create your own reality when reality itself is so overwhelming, violent, unjust and cruel? I don’t have answers for such enormous questions. Here is what I don’t understand: if we can create a being out of thin air and give him a story that he lives out according to our will, then why can’t we escape illness, poverty, and death? Perhaps because a will far greater than our own has created us and our back stories.
I suspect that we all possess powers far greater than we are aware of. At the heart of this conundrum is the concept of Self and Other. We assume, as investigators, that we are seeking the mysterious Other. And yet so often, we receive responses that seem tailored to our expectations, suggesting that something or someone is reading us and responding appropriately. I remember one investigation in particular where there was an absolute and clear dividing line between the spirit in the house and me. As soon as I crossed the threshold of that house, I knew that something completely dark and utterly draining was attempting to overtake my will and drive me to despair. That entire night was a battle between my sense of self and agency and the thing that wanted to destroy my light. I was sick for days afterwards, and all of my equipment either malfunctioned or broke, leaving me with no trace, no evidence, of what I had experienced.
Yet on other occasions, the voice on the recorder is simply repeating something I had said earlier, in a bizarre act of mimicry. Other times, the voices are nonsensical for the location and the history of the site, such as the little girl singing a strange, tuneless song in a mental hospital. Her odd voice followed me to Linda Vista and other locations, and it took me awhile to realize that this was no child’s voice. In fact, identifying the spirit in the box or recorder is nearly impossible, even if they provide you with excellent clues. There are liars, tricksters, and delinquents that frequent the inter dimensional spaces that we love to explore, and I wonder if we truly know when an entity is playing games with us, perhaps due to boredom or malice. And then, of course, there is the unsettling idea that we might have created them all for our own entertainment or other purposes, of which we are not entirely aware.
There is no way to answer the original question: are we, or are we not, creating the paranormal phenomena that we seek out? It’s not an either/or question, I suspect. I am wary of data that is too obvious, too easy, too easily responsive to our wishes and will. The best evidence is that which surprises you, shocks you, or seems utterly bizarre or incoherent at first. When you receive a message that you sincerely do not expect or even want, you might be on the right track. When your life feels different after an investigation, when you’re amazed and struggling to fit new knowledge into your existing paradigm, you’re probably heading in the right direction.
And what is the ‘right direction’? Simply where you find yourself struggling to incorporate new and perhaps contradictory information that forces personal growth and spiritual transformation. In that sense, the reality of the spirit you contacted might be less important than the new path it opened up for you. Maybe that is what the spirit world knows about us that we still don’t know about ourselves.