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Behind Life's Curtain
Theory and Practice

So I have written of my past experiences and am now ready to deal with the present and the future. I have grown past the young woman who feared her dreams in the latter 1970s. It was the suggestion of my acupuncturist that I reach behind the curtain again. I am attempting to open the dream paths again. I accept that I may not be able to change anything for anyone and perhaps that is not the purpose of the dreams.

It doesn't matter that I have no proof to offer and I fully admit that everything I have said could be the product of an active imagination, but who knows the source of inspiration? It just could be a whisper from behind that curtain.

My renewed interest in the paranormal has also sparked several in-depth conversations with my son who turns out to be quite a philosopher. What follows is a blending of his ideas with mine.

Life, The Universe and Everything

The title comes from Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, one of my favorite 6 volume trilogies (ok, math is not really my thing). In order to assess what I have done or want to do, it is important that I let you know how I see the "big picture." All religions have been created by people, and throughout human history we have been willing to slaughter one another over that which can never be proved. Sad, really. At this point I can only say that my concept of deity has outgrown all faiths in current practice. God is far too big to fit into any one religion. This divine concept is called the Absolute. The Big Bang was the point at which the Absolute spread itself into every particle of the Universe. The Absolute is beyond all human concepts -- gender, morality, sentience. As my TM teacher put it when I asked what the purpose of creation is -- "the Absolute likes to play within itself." That is as good a reason for existence as any other. As for my concept of time, if the Big Bang is to be followed by the Big Crunch, then to me those are the individual heartbeats of the Absolute. My limited mind can not handle any greater definition of infinity.

Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven.
They do not learn this by learning.
They do not work it by working.
They do not reason it by using reason.
To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment.
Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.

Chuang Tse

Perhaps not a perfect translation -- there being no lathes in China during Chuang Tse's time -- but the idea still describes my view of my own limitations.

We can debate the physics, that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, that the body loses a fraction of weight at the moment of death which many feel is the departure of the soul, and that quantum physics says that there are infinite realities. Time and causality produce other theories. A psychic might be seeing a ghost, but just as easily could be looking at a person through a fold in space-time. In particular when an entire scene of the past presents itself the witness could be looking into the past. I do not have the answers, but I am not afraid to ask the questions and see what turns up.

Reincarnation offers some possible answers to the questions about life after life, as well as answers about how souls get stuck between worlds. More people in the world believe in reincarnation than do not, and even Christianity supported infinite lives until the early Church realized that to get people to sacrifice everything for the sake of Heaven, life had to be a one-shot deal.

If a soul is bound to return again and again until the cycle is complete (ie, the soul gets life right) there may be an increased desire on the part of the deceased to pause between cycles to review the life just passed or to finish some task before entering the cycle again. Other souls may return to be with loved ones until they too cross over. My maternal grandfather (Poppy) continued to look after my grandmother for the remaining 14 years of her life. He was not earthbound or stuck in any way. He was there because he wanted to be there. Similarly John Simms', 20 years after his death, returned to his two best friends because he sensed there was a need, particularly for my mother.

Being Psychic

I believe that all people possess an ability to experience the paranormal. It is rather like owning a radio. If we accept that everyone has a radio it is easy to understand that if you never turn it on, you will never hear the music, the news, or contact a ham operator in Bora Bora. Those of us who have fiddled with the scanning button will hear bits and pieces, but unless we fine-tune the settings we are not likely to understand much of the broadcast. A few people just naturally possess a better quality radio and are already tuned in. For those people it comes down to how much they want to listen to what is being played , and there will be times when they will want to shut it off.

Some folks think that being psychic is majorly cool, but it is not without risks. Besides the dangers of being bombarded with messages from the unseen, as well as possible possession by the undesirable, there is the problem of people thinking you are insane. For one woman, whose psychic vision revealed the body of a murder victim, informing the police led to her arrest. They did not believe she could have known the body's position without having had something to do with putting it there. After a weekend in jail, she was released and eventually cleared. The police are not known for an open-minded approach to paranormal leads, and those who would help solve crimes with clues from paranormal sources are advised to proceed with caution.

The Paranormal: Fiction and Fact

Popular culture portrays ghosts as being just like people, only way cooler because they can walk through walls and listen in unseen to the living. Films and television shows abound with tales of those who can chat up the passed on and the mystery is always solved so that by the time the credits role the spirit can go "into the light and cross over." As a child I remember watching Topper and thinking how neat it was to be a ghost. Programs like Medium and The Ghost Whisperer continue the tradition.

Reality is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense, and this is certainly true of popular media about actual hauntings. A Haunting uses actors to dramatize the events while the actual participants narrate what they experienced. In most cases the program's hauntings require the intervention of a paranormal professional to bring closure. In some instances the people vacate the property, leaving it to the spirits because one can always find another house. Reminds me of what brother told me about how to get rid of bamboo -- move. When the battle is for a human being rather than property, the fight is far more intense. No one walks away from a loved one possessed by a demon entity.

Haunted History also uses actors in dramatizations of events, but each episode focuses on the hauntings of a specific city or community. This is a collection of ghost stories, most without resolution, but is entertaining and informative.

Series about real paranormal researchers -- Ghost Hunters is probably the best known, but we can add Ghost Lab, Scariest Places on Earth, and Psychic Investigations -- reveal the nature of their work. Using the latest technology, investigators wire a haunted house with cameras and audio recorders to capture spectral sights and sounds. The photographs of blurry lights and the audio recordings of mumbled whispers are open to interpretation. Meanwhile their psychic cohorts can leap past the technology, to see and hear what the machines can not. But even their intuitive accounts do not always provide a comprehensive story. In many cases there is no history to inform the investigators and the story behind the haunting remains a mystery.

For me, this is where my professional talents kick in, since historical and genealogical research have occupied most of the last 30 years for me. You can find out more about that elsewhere on this site's Research Lab.

The Nature of Psychic Incidents

Leaving aside the question of poltergeists, which seem to have a physical explanation connected to an energy emanating from a living resident of the home, the other types of hauntings are as varied as the dead. Most believers attribute an apparition to an earthbound spirit, being a soul with some unfinished business or some level of emotional connection that prevents the cross over to the next dimension. I make a further distinction, between psychic imprints and sentient spirits. I have touched on this in an earlier page, but want to go into more detail here.

A psychic imprint is an energy signature left by strong emotion connected to a place, a person or a time. Not all are connected to the dead. I believe that imprints do not present serious threat to the living except to be unsettling and in a few cases may cause susceptible people to experience the same emotion that left the imprint.

For me a sentient spirit has retained its personality, perhaps even a sense of purpose. The old lady who will not leave her home, the harbinger who warns of death, the monk who still enjoys watching a young woman strip -- these are ghosts in the classic sense. The little boy, snatched from life before he has lived long enough to understand its meaning, reappeared when living children moved into the house. Such a ghost child wants a playmate, and perhaps to be mothered. These are the spirits who can converse, state their needs and desires, and in some cases possess the living. They tend to be just like the people they were in life, hence they can be good or bad.

Usually, these spirits can be sent on their way once their needs have been acknowledged. This may be nothing more complicated than encouraging them to move on. On the other hand, those who are truly fixated, such as my great grandmother, are likely to remain entrenched and perhaps the best that can be managed is a compromise between the living and the dead.

So what is the difference between a spirit and an imprint? There is no hard science on this, of course. I make the distinction based on the accounts of sightings. The longer this has been going on the more likely it is to be an imprint. My basis for this belief is that since a sentient spirit can interact with the living, such a spirit is more likely to appear during the lifespan of those it knew in life. Once all have crossed over, the spirit should move on as well, because it presumably has been joined on the other side by all those it ever knew or loved. As sentience fades, the spirit may be reduced to an imprint based on the most prominent emotion expressed during life. In other cases, the imprint is all that ever existed, and may be left by anyone at any time, living or dead.

A sentient spirit can be recalled by a living person even centuries after death. This applies to both good and bad spirits, so be careful who you contact. In some cases a protective entity picks you. In other cases you choose an entity to guide you. If the connection is made this can be a rewarding and powerfully life-affirming association for you. I have no idea what the spirit gets out of it -- possibly karmic brownie points.

Another determining factor to the nature of a haunting could be an oddity of architecture. The cavalier who walks an upper corridor passing through a solid wall to the outside is walking to a wing of the house that was pulled down long after his death. But he doesn't know that! In this case I would say that there is no sentience to this entity and that he is an imprint. In fact, many sightings occur during or after construction, as though stirring up the physical surroundings flicks on the projector that plays the imprint and will continue to play it until someone figures out how to turn it off.

The Klinge brothers of the show Ghost Lab espoused a theory they call "era-cues" -- that paranormal activity can be produced or become more pronounced when the living recreate the elements of the place's most active era. I believe this theory has merit. Certainly the increase in living history events seems to have stirred up additional sightings at the nation's historic locations. Many of the reports from battlefields like Gettysburg reveal the inherent confusion for parties on both sides of the curtain when people of the past intermingle with re-enactors in period clothing.

Perhaps the best of the era-cues stories with which I am familiar comes from WW1 France. Two sisters, both serving as Red Cross nurses, got together and compared accounts of a battle which dramatically turned into an Allied victory. One sister was serving in a French field hospital while the other was working in the hospital filled with German prisoners. From the Allied perspective the battle was going against them until a moment came when the smoke cleared in the middle of the field, revealing a medieval knight in full plate armor, mounted on a warhorse. He lowered his lance and charged at the German line which broke, the men fleeing in panic, at which point the knight vanished. The nurse from the POW camp said, "I heard the same story from one of my German patients."

To the French it was Saint Joan. To the English it was Saint George. To the Germans -- well, they didn't know who it was, but he was definitely not on their side. My own thought, coming long before I heard the term "era-cues," is that the sounds of battle, however different from those of the Middle Ages, were enough to call the knight back into battle at the moment of the charge. A ghost? An imprint? Falling through a crack in time? There is no way to know at present, but the ideas are intriguing.

An imprint may seem to react to the living, such as beckoning someone, but we do not know what the spirit was seeing at the time the impression was made. The imprint may have beckoned someone in the incident being replayed and the living interpret the motion as directed at them. In such a case think of the imprint as someone facing a video camera. The image can be replayed indefinitely.

Good Ghost, Bad Ghost

Those who can feel a presence generally know right away if this is a good ghost or a bad ghost. When you feel as though an icy hand has grabbed your spine and given you a solid shaking, sufficient that your only reaction is to run out of the area, that's a good sign that the entity is not there to help you. If you feel a sense of peace in its presence, then the purpose of the visit is probably benign and possibly beneficial. This is not to say you can't be fooled by a spirit, especially those experienced by the very young or the very gullible. Shakespeare wrote the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose (Merchant of Venice, 1:3), but a beneficial spirit will never compel the living to do evil deeds. Scripture says that by their fruits ye shall know them (Matthew, 7:16). Anyone can be fooled by words. It is actions that reveal intent.

To Protect and Clear

Those who have been clinically dead and then revived have reported that they saw what they expected to see, based on their beliefs. The Hindu did not see Jesus. The Christian did not see Buddha. Those who expected a judgmental God usually got their wish, while those who expected to be folded in the motherly arms of the Madonna found comfort in her love.

Every human culture has been faced with a dichotomy of forces -- life and death, day and night, light and dark, good and evil, etc. Over the course of human culture we have developed religious philosophies to explain the things we can not readily understand or explain. The living draw on this as a way to set boundaries and regulate behavior. The dead carry with them the beliefs they had in life, so the same rules apply. We use these philosophical constructs when we attempt to contain or banish an entity, be it sentient spirit or imprint. It is my belief that the ceremony used to end a haunting must have meaning to those performing it. The living must draw on the essential power of faith in order to control the encounter with the dead. The living have to feel safe to feel strong and if that is in a Catholic exorcism or Tribal American smudging, do what gives you power.

In some cases it may be necessary to adapt the ritual to encompass what the dead believed. There is an old joke about the young woman who wakes up to find a vampire hovering near her neck. Prepared to defend herself she grabs a crucifix only to have the vampire laugh "But, madam, I am a Jewish bat." In the case of a sentient spirit this adaptation to its beliefs addresses the needs of both living and dead, and may further empower the living in their quest to protect and control.

If there are good energies there are equally powerful bad energies. While I do not believe in the Devil as portrayed by Christianity, I do believe in dark powers that seek to harm the living. In addition, people who have done evil in life are not likely to improve much after death. Their greed, lust, and anger are not going to vanish just because they are dead. These too can produce harmful effects on the living.

And what of the victims of tragedy? Death, like life, isn't always fair or just. Victims may leave a strong impression while the perpetrator vanishes from the psychic record. Victims can take possession of susceptible people, driving them to madness. Don't expect someone who has been brutally yanked from life to feel compassion for the living. The victim can be just as angry and therefore just as dangerous. Sensitives may not only experience the feelings, but even have a predilection to repeat actions. Be warned that the weight of the dead can be very heavy for those not prepared to carry it. It is for this reason that when Camilla Hall contacted me I was reticent about permitting the communication. She had not been a good person in life and her death was predictably violent. Not my sort of people, but in the end it worked out, but only because I set the rules and held to them.

Setting Boundaries

After my first night in the North Canonry I set down some rules, primarily for the voyeuristic monk, but by extension applied to all sentient spirits. No manifestations without my express permission. No popping out of closets or shadowing me in the mirror. None. In that sense I have made clear just how much of the broadcast frequency I am willing to receive. Audio is fine, but if the radio suddenly turns into a DVD player, I want some warning beforehand and the right to refuse.

It doesn't always work, of course, but as long as I am not freaked out in the process I can allow some latitude. For instance, I was working on the stage at the local junior high school where the Community Theatre held its productions. I had been set the task of mopping up spilled paint droplets from the stage floor. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing with a rag with a bucket next to me. Suddenly a long slender white arm came from other my shoulder to point out a spot I missed. I scrubbed it out in a split second and turned to thank the woman whom I assumed was the play's director. Carole was at the far back of the theatre. The nearest person to me was Fred, a large muscular Samoan man. The arm was not Fred's. Carole could not have made the distance. There was no one else anywhere in sight nor in the wings. I never understood what happened or who might have pointed out the spot, and just shrugged it off. If it was a ghost, at least I didn't know it at the time and thus was not particularly bothered. Just puzzled. I still am.

Helping Others

I am happy to help those who have a paranormal mystery to solve, but as with all such matters, nothing can be promised. No matter your personal beliefs -- religious, philosophical, scientific -- I will most certainly listen with an open mind and a willing heart. I do not judge and will answer honestly any question put to me, even if all I can say is "I don't know."

How Much Should You Tell Me

This depends a great deal on what you want me to do. If you want me to investigate the history of a person or a place, then the more I know the more I can find out. I am an expert researcher and published author who has spent the past three decades studying genealogy, historical transcription and living history. I know a good deal about how people of the past lived and died. I am resourceful in piecing together stories from fragments of information, leading to new areas of research. For such services I charge an hourly rate as would any researcher, but the price is negotiable. You will receive hard copy as well as digital scans of all documents found pertaining to your request, including those that lead to dead-ends. No reason for a later researcher to go down the same blind alleys.

On the other hand, if I am supposed to gather psychic impressions then tell me NOTHING. I have a well-developed imagination, so to keep me from my own invention, it is better that I enter into each situation with no prior knowledge. I may get it right or I may be completely at a loss to find a thing. That does not mean that the question was invalid, only that I am not the right person to find the answer. I do not ask compensation for this, although in some circumstances (distance being a factor) I may need help with travel expenses.

If you want me to do both then we should take them in the order of the knowledge to be gained. Tell me nothing about the incidents that have concerned you and we will see what I can pick up. After that, depending on the results I can start the physical search into the documentary records. These can be used to supply information to other paranormal researchers or as evidence to convince the appropriate authorities for an exorcism or similar procedure.

You may contact me via the link at the bottom of the page. Please put the phrase "paranormal research" in the subject line of your email so that I can be sure your post does not disappear in the spam catcher.

Blessings and peace be upon you all.

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