I was listening to Marie D Jones on Into the Fray radio today and something that she and Ryan Sprague were talking about hit the “I need to write a blog on that” chord. Basically, the discussion revolved around how, in some paranormal cases, one person will experience an event while another will stand to the side and wonder what all the fuss is about.
I first noticed this phenomenon in magical circles many moons ago. In the more public era of my pagan life, I participated in quite a number of different rituals. I would often come out of these rituals thrilled at the energies I had experienced only to have someone standing around at the feast afterward saying something like “it was a lovely ritual but I did not feel much”. I remember thinking, in my more youthful hubris, that such people must be “concrete heads” not to have experienced anything in the ceremony.
In the same manner, two investigators may walk into a house that is allegedly haunted. One investigator may have multiple experiences while the other sits in the dark all night and experiences nothing, even with a coterie of electronic devices to keep that investigator company.
It seems, at times, as though the paranormal is controlled by an intelligence that is determined to leave humans standing, scratching their heads. Given the many legends of trickster spirits, I think there is likely something to that idea but I also think that, often, there is a much simpler explanation of the seemingly random firing of the phenomenon that we study: sensitivity.
In the more public period that I spoke of above, I used to earn part of my living doing readings at my local metaphysical book store. I can not begin to tell you how many people I looked at and asked “why are you talking to me, you could be doing this reading for yourself?” Mouths would drop open and expressions of denial would spring to their lips but the truth was that , even though they denied it, these people had a lot of latent psychic ability.
You might recognize these folks: they are the people who ‘just have a feeling’ that they should turn right instead of left and avoid an accident, who always seem to know who is calling or who have dreams about things that subsequently happen. They do not think of themselves as psychic since only “those” people (you know the ones with the dark, incense laden parlors, cheesy robes and turbans) are psychic. Whether they own the title or not, these people have enough ‘bleed through’ of their psychic abilities to respond to them, even if it is only at a barely conscious level.
On the other hand, you have people who, for one reason or the other, have sealed themselves away from their psychic selves, put those abilities behind a door and throw away the key. I referred to these people as ‘concrete heads’ above and this is a pretty apt description; nothing short of the physical manifestation of the Archangel Michael or a strong poltergeist slapping them in the back of the head is going to get through to these people. Whether it is their upbringing in a fundamentalist setting or simply their fear of being outside societal norms, these folks will not allow themselves to utilize the psychic, at least not consciously.
Psychic sensitivity runs a continuum, of course, from those that are aware of their abilities and use then to those that simply refuse to acknowledge psychicsm at all and will consciously ignore any input that does not arise from rational thought. Add to this the fact (at least in my world) that no two psychics are the same and may have quite different modes of psychic perception and you begin to understand why two or more people in the presence of a paranormal phenomenon may have markedly different experiences.
Let’s go back to our haunted house and add another ghost hunter. So, we have one ‘concrete head’, one sensitive person of some sort and one person who identifies as a medium. The person who has shut away their psychism will very likely experience nothing or only have vague feelings of disturbance that they may or may not be able to verify with their equipment. The sensitive may feel cold spots, have the feeling of being watched or may actually feel that they have been touched. The medium, if there are spirits present may actually be able to see or hear those spirits and communicate with them. Different level and varieties of psychic talent; different experiences.
I would make the argument that it is good to have different types of people on an investigation team. If you have a whole team of mediums on a ghost hunt things are going to get out of hand pretty quickly. On the other hand, a team of concrete heads will find that their investigations are, for the most part, not very interesting. If you have different levels of ability on a team though then you have the opportunity to cross check what is going on around you. If the medium on point says that they feel a spirit in a location and the concrete head tells you that there is a twenty degree temperature drop in the area the medium is pointing to then you can be pretty sure something is happening. If the concrete head is even feeling a vibe about a place, then you might want to hold your medium in reserve or have them go in shielded to avoid over-taxing them.