Tag Archives: Into The Fray

The Role of Psychism in the Paranormal

Brown_lady

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.

 


Otherworld Influence in Crime

wall-of-fire

I sometimes think that the Powers that Be place things in my path to write about for this blog.  In the past couple of weeks, I have had the pleasure of reading Audrey Brice’s Outer Darkness, a fictional book that deals with the restless spirit of a suicide victim who influences some unbalanced individuals to try to kill the heroine of the story.  I also happened to listen to the Into the Fray podcast about serial killer John Patrick Addis who, amongst other things, claimed that he sometimes saw small people running about when he was in the woods.  In different ways, both of these pieces of media got me thinking.

How many times, when you have heard of a particularly heinous crime, have you said something along the line of “that person was just nuts” or “he had to be crazy to do that”.  I fully agree that people who do terrible things often suffer from mental illness, if we think about the interesting theory that the brain is a signal receiver for consciousness, and not the source of consciousness, then is it not possible that certain influences can create situations where the brain is receiving information other than what we normally perceive in our consensual reality?

I had a friend, many moons ago, who was an exorcist.  Not the holy water splattering, cross waving type of individual who charges into a bad situation and can make it worse.  No, this person was intimately involved with the spirit world and quite capable of removing the influence of spirits that did not vibrate in harmony with the person they were influencing.  This individual also worked in the mental health field so he understood mental illness.  He told me, on more than one occasion, that he kept ‘demon traps’ (large chunks of specially programed dravite – a brown tourmaline) at the door to his office and that, on many occasions, a very disturbed client would be brought into his office, past the traps and suddenly become much calmer.  He shrugged this off as the client leaving their detritus at the door but I think that he was on to something.

Science has spent a lot of time looking at the neuro-chemical foundations of mental illness and those working in this field have made great strides in discovering what the physical roots of ‘madness’.  Part of the intensity of this quest has been the scientific desire to ‘prove’ that mental illness is simply another physical disease and not, as was thought in more ‘superstitious’ times, the result of interference from spirits of various kinds (depending on the culture we could be discussing the djinn, faery, demons, etc.).  Mental illness can therefore be treated like physical disease, using the pharmaceutical model of changing the body’s chemistry to produce a healing effect.  If, however, we take the position that the brain is a consciousness receiver, a theory that is just as relevant as the idea of brain as consciousness producer, we immediately run into my friend’s assertion that mental illness can be caused and/or exacerbated by spiritual influences.

As with most ideas that I discuss on this blog, I do not think there is any one answer.  Some mental illness is certainly the result of brain chemistry imbalance (perhaps that imbalance impedes the normal reception of consciousness?) and can be treated by careful alteration of the chemical balance in the brain to a more ‘normal’ level.  Some mental illness, such as forms of schizophrenia, may be caused by the brain’s inability to filter out the myriad sense perceptions that we normally screen to prevent ourselves from being overloaded with input on a moment to moment basis.  Interestingly, some of the input that is screened out may be psychic perception so, in some cases, the mentally imbalanced person may be perceiving things outside the realm of ‘normal’ consciousness, thus adding to the notion that they are out of touch with ‘reality’.

Finally, though, we have to consider that some forms of mental illness may be caused by spirit influence, in other words, contact with the spirit may cause the imbalance, or the brain chemistry may already be off and the contact may be exacerbate the issue.  We know that an untrained medium basically sends forth a beacon on the astral that attracts spirits and one of the medium’s tasks in life is to learn how to deal with the extra input, screen out ‘undesirables’ and organize the spiritual input in a way that they can deal with.  What if certain brain chemistry imbalances draw in beings that have no care for the best interests of humans?  I do not think it is a long step to theorize that some of the particularly heinous crimes we read about could come about as a dual process of mental illness and the influence of disharmonic entities, working in synergistic effect.


Why Do We Need A Sasquatch?

Sasquatch

I’ve noted previously that I listen to a podcast hosted by Shannon LeGro, Ryan Sprague and Sam Shearon called Into the Fray.  The linked episode is the St. Patrick’s day edition of the podcast and features an appearance by well known podcaster Micah Hanks of The Gralien Report.  The show ranges widely over a number of topics and is well worth a listen.

I was intrigued, however, by a question that Micah Hanks brought up during the course of the discussion.  He asked, setting aside the ‘reality’ of Sasquatch and the hunt for evidence, even supposing that there was no actual physical creature that we could point to and call a Sasquatch, why is it that human beings have had some version of this creature in their folklore for literal centuries?  I think that is quite a good question and it got me to thinking.

As with all good questions, this one does not have a single answer so follow along as I jump down this rabbit hole for a moment.

I think that Mr. Shearon has a valid point.  Since the human being became more ‘civilized’ and spent less time being afraid of being eaten in the night, it seems that our species of hominid has delighted in scaring itself.  From the ancient ‘fairy’ tales and ghost stories to big budget, epic scare-fests like Jurassic World, we seem to delight in scaring the beejesus out of ourselves and those around us.  What better way to spice up a trip into the woods than inventing a creature that moves through the forest like a giant wraith and might just snatch you when you are not looking?

In relation to the idea that we like scaring ourselves, that fear can also serve a useful purpose as Sasquatch makes a terrific booger man.  In cultures where human children do not spend all their time indoors, glued to video games or cell phones, stories often arise that are designed to prevent kids from wandering too far from home or going into certain areas.  I suspect that Sasquatch, along with a host of other creatures serves this purpose in some societies.

I think that another factor that springs up, also related to fear, is the fact that the wilderness, particularly at night, can be a scary place.  Even if there are no giant bipedal apes running about, there are still plenty of sounds and movements in the bush that get our attention and make our imaginations run wild.  While our logical mind seeks an explanation for what we are sensing and for the creepy feeling of being watched that humans sometimes get, our story telling brain cannot help but invent monsters like the Sasquatch to fill the dark corners of our mind.   Again, we circle back to the fact that we love to scare ourselves.

I think, too, especially amongst modern victims of the ‘we now know almost everything there is to know’ scientific establishment, there is a need for mystery, a driving need to have something that can not be easily explained, dissected, put in a box with a custom label, archived and forgotten about.  I think that there is a strong desire, despite our apparent worship of science and technology, to thumb our noses at the establishment and what better way to do that then by believing in and developing lore about a creature that so-called science dismisses outright and with extreme prejudice?

Related to this idea, is the thought that, humans are explorers by nature.  I see no reason why the species would have spread as it has if we did not have some instinctual chip in our heads that made us constantly ask, “I wonder what is over that hill?”.   Linked to this desire to explore is a curiosity that makes us want to see what actually lives in the deep ocean and possibly even the vast reaches of space.  Why would we be excited about going to Mars or some other planet unless we truly are a curious and exploratory organism?  Unless we have been paralyzed by the instinct squelching ‘publish or perish’ atmosphere of academia, humans have displayed a talent for contriving reasons to go ‘over there’ and one of the reasons we see more and more today is the search for Sasquatch.

In short, I feel that there are numerous reasons why Sasquatch is found in human lore.  The Hairy Man represents something visceral and real to us.  In my own view, it is a representative of the very spirit of the forest and this is why, if there were no such creature and even if there were no such legend, I believe that people would have invented it.