The oil painting of her aunt and uncle hung in the hallway that she had to walk along to reach her bedroom. The artist had captured the likeness of the stern couple too well. Each time she passed the painting she shivered.
This night, however, she stuck her tongue out at the painting as she passed it. She was preparing to go to a party and feeling happy. She spent some time laying out her clothes and shoes on the bed and went to have a bath. Her parents were at work; her sister and brother over at friends. When she came back to her bedroom, the clothes were not on the bed. She looked around and saw some of them unceremoniously and sloppily hanging on the edge of a chair and other pieces on the floor. It looked like they’d been hurled in a fury clear across the room.
She, who became my mother, maintained her entire life that the ghosts of her mean aunt and uncle did not appreciate her sticking her tongue out at them and so they had to punish her the only way ghosts can: move things around.
Somehow I did not inherit that belief-in-ghosts gene. My mother however, was a believer in all things metaphysical, psi and occult, and she wanted to know what that world could tell her about the world she inhabited. And she thought that access to those worlds — past, present and future — took special, magic powers such as those possessed only by talented professional psychics or everyday people who had some psychic ability.
A year before she met my father she went to a psychic who told her that she would meet a dark-haired handsome man who would ask her to marry him the night they met, that she’d travel with two children across an ocean to a new country, and that she would marry twice.
My father proposed to my mother an hour after they met: he was a dark-haired and handsome. They married within six months. When I was this >< close to three years old we — my mother, me and my sister — left England, flying over the Atlantic to join my father in Canada. In time my parents divorced and my mother remarried.
Throughout her life, my mother’s palm, tea leaves, tarot cards, Runes, and past lives were read so that she could know where she came from and what the future might hold. She visited psychics and watched psychics on TV.
Being curious and wanting to understand and develop my own informed opinion, I learned about astrology, tarot cards and Runes. I talked with people who labeled themselves as psychic. I read the classics: Cayce, Roberts, Blavatsky and even Age of Aquarius, (updated) and some of Crowley, I read new age stuff, as well as old-age stuff of indigenous people’s spiritual practices as translated by white people. Then I began reading about and talking with people about Eastern faiths, practices, philosophies and religions: Hinduism, Sufism and began to practice yoga, and learning about the philosophy and discipline of Buddhism, Taoism, Zen. At the same time, I learned about debunking the paranormal and talked with intelligent people who were skeptics. I took a class in science and pseudo-science. (Yes, when I delve, I delve.)
At some point, my decision was to be agnostic. I decided that much of what might be termed psychic phenomenon is likely beyond the realm of knowing or testing. I decided that people make decisions based on what they believe and make the facts fit the event and the event fit the facts, sometimes consciously and often not.
Yet throughout all of this, I have had personal experiences for which there are no logical explanations and are clearly odd. So do my friends. One of my friends has a unique relationship with streetlights in whatever city she visits. They go out when she walks by, and go back on when she is at a distance from them. This has been happening to her for most of her life. I didn’t believe it. Then it happened when I was with her while we were walking one night.
Tell me what’s going to happen
The desire to know the future just be as old as humanity. We had to anticipate whether the lion was going to jump out and eat us. Then we got a bit civilized — so to speak — and we formed groups, and some of us became the elite ruling class and some of us became working class; some of us became teachers and lawyer, some of us became or priests and priestesses and some of us became star gazers. Weren’t some of the earliest consulting gigs for astrologers, dream interpreters and star gazers with the ruling class? Wasn’t it dream interpretation that got Moses placed in a basket in a river for safe keeping only to be found by a Pharoh’s daughter?
You might recall the Ancient Greeks’ Oracle at Delphi. Well, turns out that the oracle sat above a crack in the earth that released fumes which made the Oracle really, really, high. In this impaired state, stringing together what words she could muster, the oracle gave wisdom to seekers who took them as the words of the gods.
Nostradamus wrote about the future he saw and is said to have predicted Napoleon and a bad guy with a name quite close to Hitler. In the latter half of the 20th century, the complex astronomical calculations of the ancient Maya were used to make a prediction that is now the subject of the movie 2012, another end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it plotline.
Wanting to know the future is, I think, somewhat predictable. We spend most of our thought time either in the past or in the future and since we can’t change the past, perhaps if we know what’s coming we can be prepared. That might be a bit of a waste of the present moment, though. And it is this moment that leads to the next and to the next and is important.
What I do not understand is why is that all the prediction, prophesy stuff is all doom? Did early news editors get there first to do the programming? More Doom! More Conflict! No-one’s gonna listen to a happy prophesy! And why aren’t the psychics winning all of the lotteries? Or am I asking the wrong question? Is prophesy only for the warnings and not the wonderful?
Beyond wanting to know the future (no pun intended) psychic or paranormal phenomenon tends to be about connections between people. When someone we love is no longer here, we want to know that they are ok and if they have any messages for us. For believers, people who have passed on are ‘out there’ somewhere, living the afterlife. This concept of an afterlife has been around millenia, and is codified in many faiths and philosophies; it’s not going away anytime soon.
Then there is the notion of a soul mate, your one true love with whom you will travel through time and space and past and future lives, and until you find each other you will not feel…settled. This two is about connection, being connected, feeling whole.
Then there’s the idea of your spirit’s connection to something greater, or perhaps of REconnecting, of learning lessons and shedding your karma so that you can move through higher levels of spiritual evolution until you reach that state of pure awareness, of getting back with the Divine, no longer in need of a physical body, no longer incurring psychic debts and being ever in bliss.
That’s the theory. And it cannot be proved nor disproved.
We MIGHT be wired to believe in something, and for those who think otherwise: belief in nothing — even Nihilism — is still a belief, and I do wonder if and how it is possible to actually ever believe in nothing.
There is some talk (highly controversial) in science circles that we are actually wired with a God gene. Now, I’m just a lay person, but I think that’s an odd way to think it: we might be hard-wired to make sense of our world. Belief in certain things is one way in which we do it, and belief is often culturally based and can range from a belief in female circumcision; a huge negative energy vortex around the Bermuda Triangle, and in angry ghosts who throw things across the room when displeased.
But belief also serves to connects us; bring us to a group, gives us a community where we can share our beliefs and feel less alone in the world, even if our beliefs are that the world is a bad place and together our group will make the world over how we believe it will be better.
Then there’s the belief in science and intelligence and the scientific method that will help us know and understand our world. Science, like Psi believers, like new agers, and religious fundamentalists, has its own ritual, its own language, its own process and own worldview. Unlike other belief systems, however, good, pure and ethical science insists on testing itself and questioning its assumptions.
For example, a recent brain study found that there are people who DO feel, emotionally and physically in their body, the pain of another. Another study has revealed that, oh, guess what: the body DOES directly emit photon light that fluctuates according to a person’s metabolism. (I was WAITING for science to find a way to measure it!) And there have been SO many studies that find Placebo effect is in play in so many instances that it makes me tilt my head — poodle-like — at the amazing ability of our mind to believe a thing and make it true.
Now, NONE these studies were not about metaphysical or paranormal phenomenon. What’s interesting is that these findings — if proven true — MIGHT point to explain events that are now classified in that way.
As we continue to learn about our inner world of mind and brain and heart, and blood and good deeds and love and compassion — and sadly the exact opposite — I am struck by just how magical, and mystical, and truly unlikely creatures we are. If I didn’t see and experience us, I am not sure I would believe we existed.