Ghosts in Japanese Culture

We Westerners hear about the mysterious East, but often don’t stop to think why we think the Far East is so mysterious. Part of this problem is that Westerners simply don’t understand Eastern culture. Behind superficial differences between the two cultures, it seems that fundamental shifts in focus are most responsible for cultural confusion between East and West. Shifts in focus? Yes. In contrast to Western cultures where emphasis lies on the development of individual ego, Asians generally focus on harmonious interactions within a larger community. Community spirit rests at the heart of the universe. As a result of this focus, an individual’s first responsibility rests in assuring the smooth functioning of society at the expense of individual needs. The imperative to emphasize community supports the unusually (to Westerners, at least) structured behaviors that lie at the heart of Asian culture.

Quick Explanations
I realize that pointing to a culturally ingrained emphasis on community is a quick generalization, but this generalization is a necessary first step into a more detailed explanation of Asian mentality. Until a more detailed understanding of Asian cultures emerges, it is first useful to keep in mind that quality of community focus varies from Asian culture to Asian culture. For example, Asian relationships to spirituality can be as varied as, say, Western interpretations of Christianity. A crucial distinction is, however, that, in contrast to Western history, Asians haven’t used different interpretations of religion as a justification for war. They recognize that, although different approaches to spirituality use different rituals, the essence that supports all forms of spirituality is the same. To remain meaningful, expressions of belief fluidly adjust from culture to culture. There’s no reason to fight over religion. Ignorance breeds conflict. Fights are not useful for the whole of society.

Never the Twain Shall Meet
My references to religion and war aren’t the beginning of a meandering socio-political argument. Actually, I will use attitudes to spirituality and war to begin a discussion of essential disparities between Eastern and Western interpretations of paranormal phenomena. How? Firstly, the emotional impulse of Westerners to deal with the unknown using denial contrasts with the Asian wish to understand and patiently explain the unexplainable (Ross, 1996). The result of this divergence is that Westerners either pooh-pooh the paranormal or make it into a New Age business venture that is sure to stimulate profitable interest at the expense of genuine understanding. In addition, Western media so heavily promotes the terrifying, bloody, and other sensational aspects of the paranormal that it is difficult to transform the paranormal into a subject worthy of serious study. Indeed, it is not unusual for a Western investigator to accompany an explanation of his/her interest in the paranormal with an uncomfortable apologetic air. Let’s face it: in the Western world, it’s somewhat embarrassing to admit to an interest in the paranormal. Conversely, other cultures have different feelings about the paranormal.

Instead of giving in to a less-than-respectable opinion of those who investigate the unknown, why not turn to cultures that actually have an interest in the paranormal and, furthermore, support active investigation. Why not? There are places where the paranormal is an intrinsic part of the culture. Where? Interest and curiosity about the paranormal exists in Asia. For example, the Japanese are highly interested in, and curious about, the paranormal (Ross, 1996).

Ghosts in Modern Japan
Of all Asian cultures, Japan provides a valuable example because, among Asian cultures, the urban Japanese have assimilated into the West as an influential economic force. In spite of this Westernization, however, it is siginificant that Japanese culture is full of contrasts that reflect bothold traditions and new ideas (Ross, 1996). In fact, Japanese culture holds to quite a few ancient traditions, although these traditions have been adjusted to modern life. For example, it is not unusual to see a contemporary Japanese businessman carry anicient charms along with his cell phone and briefcase (Iwsaka and Toelken, 1994; Ross, 1996). In addition, the media is full of ghost and monster stories that either take the form of traditional folk tales or legends or have been adapted from folk tales to contemporary films and novels. (Remember Godzilla?) Even modern Japanese religion integrates the supernatural into its teachings.

The bottom line is that, even today, daily life in Japan is supernatural: 8 million deities (kami) are responsible for everything in daily life (even the toilet) (Iwsaka and Toelken, 1994).; Ross, 1996). Emulating old traditions, modern Japanese frequently feel that there’s little difference between the world of the living and then world of the dead. Ghosts are commonplace. For this reason, living people easily meet ghosts . . . and may not even realize that they have done so (Iwsaka and Toelken, 1994)!

Land of Spirits
There are spirits in Japan-many of them. There are, in general, two kinds of spirit: the spirit of the living (seiryo), and the spirit of the dead (shiryo) (Iwsaka and Toelken, 1994). Spirits can be dead or alive. It doesn’t matter much. The main distinction is that spirits either come from komoyo (this world) or anoyo (over there). Ghosts of the dead appear out of anoyo because a spirit that should be in anoyo is tied to komoyo by strong emotions or feelings of obligation. It is, however, possible to draw the spirit into anoyo by reading special sutras, or Buddhist scriptures that release the spirit from unresolved sensations of obligation, duty, debt, honor, and personal responsibility (Iwsaka and Toelken, 1994). As might be imagined, in the spirit of Japanese community, feelings that involve other people are most responsible for the appearance of ghosts. Duty does not stop at death.

Because duties do not expire with the body, there are quite a few ghost stories that deal with strong feelings of obligation. (Iwsaka and Toelken, 1994). For this reason, many ghost stories relate to, say, ongoing relationships between a dead mother and a live child or a dead child and a live mother. Close relatives or lovers that share a sense of mutual responsibility, but are separated by death, also present possibilities for ghostly phenomena. As might be apparent, responsibility transcends death in Japanese culture.

The Dead are Near
Since, in Japan, the dead are near the living, the Japanese consider it wise to continue to treat the dead as if they were alive (Iwsaka and Toelken, 1994). That means that relatives still honor the dead on their birthdays, or on specific holidays. Maybe the living will continue to do maintenance on a garden that was loved by the departed. This maintenance is not a matter of stubbornly holding onto a memory; it is doing something for someone who is not able to do the work. The departed gardener will somehow show appreciation for this polite consideration. If, however, the gardener isn’t happy with garden maintenance, in one way or another, displeasure will appear.

Why the Obsession with Death?
Does an extreme concern with death seem usual? This concern should be understood in the right spirit. In contrast to the West, Japanese ghosts serve a purpose (other than to be dead). Although the Japanese see actual physical decay as “dirty,” death, when understood in a spiritual sense, is a profound mystery that moves above and beyond decaying bodies (Iwsaka and Toelken, 1994). Ghosts are useful because they inspire emotion, more emotion than is common for the living Japanese. Ghosts make debts, obligations and guilt very real and very obvious. That’s because they don’t hide behind polite gentility. In addition, ghosts frequently serve as reminders of duties that must be done, or appear as helpful guides that impart vital information to the living. More importantly, ghosts give the living (and the dead) freedom to express intense emotions that are normally repressed in Japanese society. In some respects, ghosts present an unearthly opportunity to confront unresolved social tensions or emotional issues that were so strongly imprinted in the living person that, to move on, this person must confront the same issues in death. Death that results from any form of emotional stress, such as torture, betrayal, or disregard of acceptable social behavior is excellent for creating a ghost. Interestingly, Japanese ghosts are often prone to interact with the living in forms that speak and can be touched. Suspicion is that the living who see, talk, and otherwise interact with ghosts have a level of acceptance that creates the solid appearance of ghosts. Not surprisingly, perceptions of solidity occur frequently (Iwsaka and Toelken, 1994).

As is the case in most of Asia, it is important to remember that, unlike most Westerners, the Japanese both love and honor their ghosts. It’s a good place to be a ghost!

Iwsaka M. and Toelken B. (1994). Ghosts and the Japanese. Logan: Utah University Press.

Ross, C (1996). Supernatural and Mysterious Japan. Tokyo: Yen Books.

Case Study – Paranormal in Madrid

One of the challenges of conducting investigations of paranormal activity is, of course, determining whether an event is worth investigating. That’s because strange noises are often nothing more than completely explainable bumps in the night. Occasionally, however, there are events worth investigating. If there seems to be genuine events, how does an investigator proceed with an investigation?

This article is, in many ways, a rehearsal in which the reader must decide: 1) if events are suspicious enough to warrant an investigation; 2) how to construct an investigation (if events are sufficiently suspicious). The events I will use for this thought experiment are based on an actual interview with a friend from graduate school who experienced some unusual events during a stay in Madrid, Spain about 25 years ago. Unfortunately, the unusual events were never formally investigated. In spite of the passage of 25 years, however, we have an advantage in that, because the reported events were never investigated, we can freely play with what we know about paranormal investigation and match it with a hypothetical investigation that we base on the past events in Madrid.

Our first step is to quickly form a portrait of the person who reports possibly paranormal events. This portrait is often enough to discourage intense efforts that are needed for investigation because, at the end of the initial interview, it may become apparent that the person who reports paranormal events doesn’t inspire complete credibility. In this case study I have a distinct advantage in that the person who gives the report is a trusted personal friend who doesn’t appear to embellish experienced reality. Of course, my word alone should not be enough. We’ve got to focus on the facts. The person who reports the phenomena is a white female (I’ll call her S.) who, at the time, was a student in her twenties who, for a time, studied in Madrid at a university level. During her stay in Madrid, S. was alone, didn’t speak Spanish, and didn’t have many Spanish friends. In spite of her isolation, S. considered her time in Spain a personal test that she was eager to confront. She felt confident in her ability to survive. Nonetheless, S. was/is a sensitive individual.

Since the events in Madrid, S. hasn’t had what she’d consider a paranormal experience. She’s avoided telling people about her experiences in Madrid because she’s certain they’ll think she’s lost her mind. In hindsight, S. has difficulty dealing with what she experienced in Madrid because it was, as S. reports, so unusual.. On the whole, S. would rather forget what she saw and felt. Her willingness to tell me about her experience in Madrid emerged out of knowledge that I’m interested in investigating paranormal phenomena.

The events in question deal with a series of sightings and intense feelings in a two room apartment that S. had rented in Madrid and which, she claimed, never felt like home. S. didn’t share this apartment with another person. A big bed with a mattress stood on one room. The other room contained a cot with a metal frame with a mattress-like cushion covering the metal frame. S. doesn’t remember further details about furnishing because the bed and cot both were the primary focus of paranormal activity. As S. relates, if she wanted peace, she slept on the couch.

Now that we have a sketchy picture of the environment, it’s possible to elaborate on what happened. First, we need to divide our attention between the room with the bed and the room with the metal cot.

I’ll begin with the bedroom. In short, over a number a weeks, S. occasionally looked out of bed in an alert dream-like state to see a nun hovering at the foot of the bed. S. is certain that she was wide awake when she saw the nun. S. doesn’t remember a fluctuation in temperature when the nun appeared.The nun looked solid, although fuzzy. This nun ressembled an unclear black-and-white photograph. In spite of fuzziness, it was possible to tell that the nun was quite stocky. If S. saw the nun move, the nun moved slowly. The nun didn’t speak or gesture, although she seemed to make noises that sounded much like bumping into furniture. Rather than being frightened, S. was intensely curious. With every sighting, she was convinced that she was looking at the impossible. This can’t be happening! S. once asked an acquaintance to spend the night with her in the bed. The nun didn’t appear that night.

The room with the metal cot was a different matter. There were no sightings (nun or otherwise), but this room was, nonetheless, more unsettling. S. describes a heavy, constricting quality about the room that was accompanied by a strong sense of being watched. All S. can say is that there was a definite presence in the room. The presence was not the nun. It was something else. This presence felt overwhelming, absolute. It exerted extreme pressure. S. felt that this presence, like the nun, was completely external to her body. S. also describes lying on the cot when it began to shake violently. S. was, once again, incredulous. I asked S. why she stayed in the apartment. S. replied that she didn’t move because she was mesmerized by the impossibility of the events around her. She saw the events as another challenge she could face.

In the midst of the strange activity, S. remembers telling herself not to get carried away. She also remembers coming to the decision one day to tell the presence/apparition to GO AWAY! It did. S. wasn’t bothered anymore. After the disappearance of the presence/apparition, S. thought about her experience. She was convinced that she didn’t somehow participate in the sightings. S. emphasized that the images felt completely external to herself.

Curious about the history of the apartment, S. asked a Spanish-speaking acquaintance to ask the owners about the history of the apartment. The owners apparently didn’t wish to elaborate in depth about the history, other than to reveal that someone had indeed died in the apartment. It was difficult to acquire further information.

With the information that I gave you, the reader, I’d like to know about the investigation you would propose . . . that is, if you feel that this story warrants an investigation [note that I didn’t embellish the story as it was told to me]. Assuming you’re interested in an investigation, draw up an action plan. Ask yourself if you really would consider conducting an investigation in the apartment. Why? Do you merely want to be there just for the thrills? What would you do if you had to investigate this apartment? Who would you talk to and what instruments would you use? Are there weak spots in this story? If so, what are they? What methods could you use to expose the story as a possible fraud? These are serious questions that must be answered before any serious investigation can take place.

Sound in Paranormal Investigations Part 2

I suggest that an understanding of frequency is the key to what we call paranormal activity. Let’s talk about how animals link to the paranormal through their sensitivity to frequency.

The animal sense that most clearly surpasses human sensitivity is hearing. That some animals hear better than humans is hardly news, but this ability becomes more interesting when we consider that animals are also traditionally better at detecting phenomena like ghosts and earthquakes, both of which probably present unusual frequency patterns. Understanding heightened sensitivity in animals has two advantages: 1) in working closely with animals we become increasingly sensitive to their abilities; 2) we better learn to identify and integrate animal sensitivity into our investigation.

Most Helpful Animals?
It may seem funny, but we can probably find the most helpful animals by watching a few horror films. It’s not because Hollywood has the best ideas about paranormal investigation; it’s more that unconscious knowledge that has long shown up in folk beliefs now shows up in contemporary films. In classic horror films, two of the most significant creatures are fairly easy to identify: dogs and bats. Dogs and bats are now so closely linked to the cinematic paranormal that a thinking person might ask whether there’s some truth behind the cliché. If we go back to my suggestion that the paranormal links to frequency, we may begin to suspect that there is truth. Why? Because both dogs and bats show unusual sensitivity to frequency. Dogs hear better than humans, and bats have sonar that literally helps them to see small objects with their ears. The term “blind as a bat” only works if we refer to eyes. With respect to hearing, however, humans are clearly inferior. Bats can teach us a few things!

Dogs: More Than Floppy Ears
Of one thing we can be certain: dogs hear many frequencies that humans can’t hear (Hossell, 2003). The reason why is fairly simple: prior to domestication, dogs’ survival largely depended on being able to hear small prey in the dark. In addition, sharp hearing allowed them to communicate with companion dogs that alerted them to danger or sources of food.

While, over thousands of years, dogs’ brains have evolved, their hearing has remained much the same. That is, much of a dog’s brain is still focused on sound. This sensitivity gives them abilities that are out of the reach of many humans. Some frequencies that dogs hear may relate to frequencies that are useful for paranormal phenomena.

No, dogs aren’t psychic. They just hear better. For example, they distinguish the sound of our car from other cars so that they hear when our car pulls up in front of the house. Our dog can even hear our unusually quiet hybrid car. I’m impressed. She also hears the difference between a delicious snack and a dreaded green vegetable hitting the kitchen floor. As D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D., a neuroscientist with a special interest in canine sensory systems in Ochlocknee, Georgia, asserts, dogs have a richer auditory life than we do. Their auditory life is so rich that dogs must selectively screen out sounds that don’t normally affect their lives. Like humans, they screen because, quite simply, there would be too much going on. Even with screening, their hearing is more acute than human hearing because, even after domestication, their survival instinct is still strong.

When training a dog, some of us might have used the training tool that uses ultrasonic and infrasonic tones to either reward the dog or let it know when behavior isn’t desirable. In general, dogs like high frequencies and respond with happy compliance. On the other hand, dogs usually react unfavorably to low tones, probably because the dog’s mother used a low growl to warn the puppy to keep behavior in line. In short, while high tones make a dog happy, low tones make them nervous, a trait that may explain why dogs appear skittish before an earthquake when the earth probably emits ultra low frequencies that most of us can’t hear.

The cowering that a dog traditionally shows when confronting a ghost may lead us to believe that ghosts must be a low frequency phenomenon, but there’s also evidence that dogs also shy away from ultrasonic frequencies because they’re another sign of danger. For example, dogs in South America flee from the ultrasonic cries of vampire bats that might attack them. Vampire bats routinely feed on cattle, but dogs are an extremely rare delicacy, a sign that, although dogs react favorably to high tones, they don’t react favorably to all high frequencies. Some ultra high frequencies might actually have qualities that evoke aversion in dogs. For that reason, it’s difficult to assume that paranormal phenomena are exclusively infrasonic.

To discover how ultrasonic tones work in uncovering paranormal phenomena, it might be useful to experiment with bats, a creature that, in itself, seems to exhibit otherworldly talents.

Remarkable Bats
Bats are remarkable because they not only fly around without hitting objects in a darkened environment, but they also capture small insects for food in total darkness. It’s no hit-or-miss technique: bats do seem to see in the dark. Actually, bats don’t see well. If anything, they “see” with their ears. That is, they send out ultrasonic sonar, or inaudible (to humans, at least) high-pitched chirps that reflect off objects in the way, thus alerting the bat of the quality of terrain that lies in its flight path. This ability is called echolocation, a talent that scientists acknowledge, but don’t fully understand. What they do know is thanks to Lazarro Spallanzani, an Italian scientist in the late 1700s who experimented with how bats find their way in the dark. In an experiment, he put a bat and an owl in a semi-dark room and found that both could find their way in semi-darkness. In total darkness, however, the bat flew without incident, while the owl collided with objects. These events seemed to indicate that the bat had some means to navigate in the dark. When, however, Spallanzani placed a sack over the bat’s head, it was as disoriented as the owl. Spallanzani concluded that bats used a “sixth sense” with which to navigate darkness. In vain, he encouraged other scientists to conduct other experiments that would help clarify bats’ abilities.

Other Experiments
Later, Charles Jurine, a Swiss zoologist, had the inspired idea to block bats’ ears. The result? With blocked ears, a bat also became disoriented. As a result, Spallanzani created new experiments that suggested bats see with their ears, not with their eyes. In spite of clear evidence, however, fellow scientists rejected Spallanzani’s theory on the ground that, although interesting, the theory was untestable.

Spallanzani’s theory fell into obscurity until, 150 years later, Donald R. Griffin, then an undergraduate at Harvard University, seriously considered Spallanzani’s “bat problem” in new studies during the1930s. Using microphones, Griffin proved that bats produce sounds that are well above human hearing. At that time, it became clear that they bats use echoes of their ultrasonic, high frequency calls to locate objects. Griffin described this behavior as echolocation, or the ability of bats to find their way in darkness by using the echoes of sounds bouncing off objects to map their terrain.

Echolocation, now established as the sonar “sight” of bats, is similar to the sonar used by the military to locate hidden weapons and opponents. In contrast to military machines, however, the sonar that bats use is called “biosonar,” a sophisticated natural phenomenon that is also a property of dolphins, porpoises, and whales.
Once again, in using echolocation, bats send out high frequency, or ultrasonic, squeaks or clicks that bounce off objects and return to the bats giving information about surrounding objects. These returning echoes are so detailed that bats even receive information about small creatures like gnats and mosquitoes. They can even tell how far away objects are (Hossell, 2003). Not only are bats able to detect small objects, but they produce ultrasonic holograms that record on sound-sensitive photographic plates. Off these plates, we can (with the right technique) construct three dimensional images of sounds ‘heard” by bats (Murchie, 1978).
Investigation with Sonar

The ability to record a broad range of frequencies that humans can’t normally hear seems an asset to paranormal investigation, particularly since there’s no convincing proof that paranormal phenomena actually falls within the relatively narrow ranges that humans now use for research. More importantly, dogs and, most especially, bats appear to have a special edge to their sensitivity that humans are still unable to emulate, even with sophisticated equipment. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that, even for humans, ultrasound imaging has become a useful tool for revealing hidden tumors, injury, or fetuses that aren’t visible from the outside (Hossell, 2003).

Yes, ultrasonic tools depend on the presence of solid matter to give results, a quality that may be absent in detecting ghosts. Nonetheless, it might be worth experimenting with a sensitive multibeam sonar that scans a large area (Hossell, 2003). To collect most information, it would probably be fruitful to conduct experiments in allegedly “hot spots” with both multibeam sonar detectors, and animals like, yes, dogs and bats. In this way, we can compare results to see if significant results emerge. As of yet, we’re unable to determine conclusively if some form of undefined matter accompanies paranormal events. In effect, we don’t know whether ghosts are a phenomenon of frequency, or whether a particular frequency tends to draw ghostly phenomena. It might be the time to start experimenting with frequencies!

Indeed, if parapsychology is going to become a new integrated science, we have to be ready to experiment with new modes of investigation. We can’t rely on old science done in the old ways. On the contrary, paranormal investigators must be fearless pioneers who, using creative experiments, create a new view of science.

Hossell, K.P. (2003). Sonar. Chicage, Ill.: Heinemann Library.

Murchie, G. (1978). The Seven Mysteries of Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Sound in Paranormal Investigations Part 1

While there’s ample reason to believe that hauntings correlate to infrasonic, or low frequency, wave patterns, I suggest that different types of paranormal phenomena relate to both the infrasonic and ultrasonic, frequencies that are out of the range of human hearing. Indeed, if we, as some British scientists propose, are emotionally and physically responsive to, low frequencies that we can’t hear, it seems logical to assume that we also respond to inaudible ultrahigh frequencies. Does a link between paranormal activity and ultrasonic frequencies seem unreasonable? If it does, it may only seem unreasonable because we’re unaware of our subtle relationship to frequency. Nonetheless, hearing- and visually-impaired individuals frequently compensate for disability by developing a primitive form of echolocation, or ultrasonic waves that reflect off objects to let bats know where they are and what’s in front of them (Hossell, 2003). In earlier days when survival was critical, humans may have also had abilities to process a broad spectrum of senses.

Although largely undeveloped, many human talents are amazing. Although not as sensitive as bats, humans apparently also sense short-wave radiation when their eyes adapt to darkness. When using night vision, retinal rod cells are actually able to detect x-rays and gamma rays as a yellowish-green glow (Murchie, 1978). Often, it’s enough to stare fixedly at a hand against a white sheet of paper to see this glow. With training, who knows how much more we can see . . . and, perhaps, learn to use?

Exploring Unseen Worlds
By now, pop physics has probably convinced some of us that what we currently see is not necessarily what we get. The subatomic world is definitely stranger than we think. In all of this strangeness, quality of frequency is, in one way or another, responsible for a great deal more than audible sound. Indeed, when we enter the quantum world, sound and light are mainly a matter of vibration. The smaller a particle, the more it vibrates with pure energy. In terms of energy, however, an electron strives to maintain a “ground state,” or a state of lowest energy because this state is most economical for the electron. When, however, a particle gains energy, it enters an excited state from which it tries to return rapidly to its ground state. The easiest way to return to ground is to shed excess energy-which the particle does by seeking out an energy catalyst that facilitates the expulsion of energy. Often, expulsion of energy takes the form of a flash of light that’s visible to the eye (Herbert, 1985).

So, what does all this have to do with paranormal phenomena? In the case of ghosts, it may suggest that ghosts are a form of unstable electron energy that, in its present form, is unable to achieve a ground state (i.e., equilibrium). In short, a spectral manifestation represents an excited state out of which it’s only possible to shed enough energy to appear briefly as a perceptible form (and then disappear). Ultimately, however, it’s impossible to shed the right amount of energy to dissipate completely, possibly because a spectral entity unconsciously grasps at the pre-death experience of having a particle form that conserves, rather than releases, energy. In contrast to those who believe that repetitive “haunting” behavior is an attempt to horrify or harm the living, it may be more likely that, as a nonconscious natural phenomenon, a ghost is attracted to energy catalysts that provide the needed expulsion of energy. In plainer terms, a ghost depends on the consciousness of the living to supply the correct energy catalyst. Consciousness, however, has to provide just the right quality of awareness. Normal everyday consciousness may not be enough.

What Ghosts and Electrons Have in Common
I can’t prove that ghosts are composed of unstable electrons, but there are some interesting facts about electrons that might be useful in attempting to understand ghosts. Sure, like ghosts, electron particles are best seen in dim light (Herbert, 1985), but the matter goes much further than that, particularly when we enter the world of quantum logic where, as “quantumstuff,” an electron becomes unusually complex. It, as the physicist DeBroglie observed in 1924, shows itself as bothparticle and wave, not merely, as long believed, only as a particle (Herbert, 1985).

In the neither/nor state of electronhood, the electron is, as Herbert (1985) suggests, a quon, or undefined quantum matter that exhibits both wave and particle qualities that vary according to the operative state of the electron (Herbert, 1985). Normally, particles have specific characteristics. These characteristics require that an electron be localized in space, impossible to split, and preserves its identity in collisions with other particles. In contrast to this classic particle identity, however, electrons don’t have to touch to interact. Instead, they create an electric field in which wave activity supplants particle activity. Some more radical physicists even propose that an electron is a point particle whose size is zero. That is, the electron has no definite structure as a particle. If anything, it behaves like a particle that can suddenly take on the qualities of a wave if circumstance are right (Herbert, 1985).

What does this all mean? It means that it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly if something is wave or particle. In the end, it’s as difficult to play with ideas about wave function by using particle theory as it is to contemplate particle function solely from the perspective of waves. It also means that, as contradictory as it might seem, it’s fruitless to explain particle theory without using wave theory, and, conversely, equally impossible to explain wave theory without particle theory (Herbert, 1985).
In spite of the close relationship between wave and particle, Western culture seems unusually particle-minded. It seems likely that our culture would profit from discovering the intrinsic relationship between wave and particle. Almost certainly, paranormal investigation would profit from such exploration. One way to begin exploration is to examine the unique behavior of wave properties.

The Way of the Wave
Let’s face it: wave reality presents a new view of life. Unlike a particle where energy is focused in one specific area, a wave spreads over large areas, is divisible, and fully integrates with other waves (Herbert, 1985). With integration, we deal with a rich new quantum wave reality in which nothing is black or white. In this reality, wave patterns periodically assume visible forms that, after a certain time, dissipate into apparent nothingness. To draw on Alexandra David Neel’s experience as a female lama in Tibet, we find that, in essence, wave reality supports the belief that anything is possible to those who know how to do it (David-Neel, 1977). In other words, when we let our thoughts fluidly emulate the integrative power of wave dynamics, we find that fixed (i.e., particle-like) ideas aren’t enough for understanding a dynamic universe. It also isn’t useful for understanding what we believe is “paranormal” activity that, in the mind of many Asians, isn’t actually all that strange.

For skeptical Westerners, perhaps the best way to describe an integrated wave-like view of reality is, as with quantum reality, to treat it as if it’s tightly woven system, not a collection of details. In effect, we acknowledge life as a quantum phenomenon in which waves, not things, are the foundation of existence. In effect, life is a group phenomenon that depends on the intermingling of various amplitudes. To support this view, we require a new vision that allows us to make dynamic measurements that leave room for what can’t be seen with ordinary consciousness (Herbert, 1985).

Sense Out of Sound
One way (maybe the best way) to understand the behavior of a wave/particle existence is to think about sound. That’s because sound depends on both waves and particles, each fulfilling different functions: sound is waves that are supported by air particles. The co-dependency that creates sound brings to mind brings to mind significant questions that may give us insight on the nature of ghosts. For example, what happens in a vacuum where sound doesn’t transmit? Can there be ghosts in space? Moreover, can there be telepathy without air, particularly since there’s no medium for transmission?

What if there is transmission wherever there’s air? What happens? Perhaps, psychic activity is mainly a matter of a psychic being “in phase” (or matching up) with unaccustomed frequency patterns that most of us unconsciously screen out of awareness as destructive interference. In effect, extremely sensitive people who experience sightings may function like a transducer that transforms the energy of waves into detailed pictures (Hossell, 2003).

Feats of Sound
While the use of frequency might seem an unlikely tool for paranormal investigation, it’s worth noting that some mystical traditions (like the Tibetan tradition) have uncanny practices that, in essence, reflect the movements of sound waves.

One of the first examples of wave transmission is the practice of sending messages “on the wind,” a poetic Tibetan expression that refers to telepathic communication. In contrast to Western belief that telepathy is something of an accident, Tibetan telepathy is willed. Often, it’s used by yogis to teach distant students. While this education might, to us, seem highly impractical, many yogis prefer this method because it’s intimate: it relies on the exchange of direct feelings between connected individuals who dispense with both misunderstandings that arise from the indirectness of words, and the perception of “separateness.”

Similar to a psychic, a yogi concentrates his or her thoughts so that thoughts have rhythm, or pulse. At the same time the yogi transmits teachings, a student “tunes into” into incoming waves by making the mind so receptive that he or she literally vibrates with the yogi’s waves (David-Neel, 1977). In this teaching, the student learns by experiencing profound feelings entirely without explanations! Vibrations assume identity in a mind that’s ready to make sense of input. Often, reception occurs when the student meditates, or is occupied with something other than waiting for a message. Generally, transmitted thoughts don’t appear as dreams because, in a dream state, there’s no interplay between vibrations and the conscious mind, an integration that supports the experience of nonordinary transmission (David-Neel, 1977).

Play With Theory
All things considered, I assume that long-distance teaching involves either the transmission of long frequencies, or very short frequencies that are so short that, taken in condensed form, they mimic low waves without the choppy qualities that generally characterize short waves. In effect, extreme shortness brings waves so closely together that they merge, and in so doing, behave like one dense low frequency wave that doesn’t have the conventional choppiness of short waves (Greene, 1999). If this idea has merit, it seems apparent that complex paranormal activity requires more than simple cause-and-effect analytical thought. To understand nonordinary phenomena, we must change our minds!

In playing with theory, it’s useful to look for behavior that supplies literal examples of what I mean. In this case, I think of traditional Tibetan lung-gong-pas running in which a runner literally illustrates the use of rhythm, and possibly even frequency patterns, by covering long distances over mountain passes without pause by using a springing, elastic movement. This repetitive movement depends on mental concentration and on different forms of rhythmic breathing. While engaged inlung-gong-pas, the runner not only appears weightless, but is also impervious to distractions. That’s because a lung-gong-pas runner calmly concentrates on a repeating up-and-down bouncing movement that looks much like a frequency wave. It isn’t unusual for waiting Tibetans to sense the impending arrival of such a runner (David-Neel, 1977).

Real Life Experience
While lung-gong-pas running may test a reader’s willingness to think creatively about frequency, I respond by referring to my experience as a professional ballet dancer who, yes, specialized in jumping. In many respects, lung-gong-pas running makes perfect sense to me. That is, I understand that the secret to endurance is to set up a repetitive up-and-down rhythm (like a sound wave) in which the accent is on the up beat. [It is, of course, easiest when one dances to music with a strong beat.] To reach a sensation of weightlessness while jumping, one builds up a sense of rhythmic “bouncing” that, in many respects, follows the same pattern as a sound wave.

By itself, this bouncing might not seem terribly impressive, but I noticed that what emerged from a meditative focus on the rhythmic pulse of an ongoing movement was a highly receptive mind in which I could tell where others were without looking at them! I also uncovered unexpected insights that I wouldn’t have had by standing still. Even today, writing is easiest when I listen to music as I write. In addition, I read my work aloud to determine if the rhythm of I write sounds right. That’s because the sound of my writing touches me more profoundly than silently reading it. There’s more to sound than we think.

More Research Needed
That sound and mysticism are closely entwined isn’t a revelation to older cultures that routinely associate qualities of sound with mystic activities. In effect, sound waves do quite a bit that we, for the most, part, don’t yet acknowledge. We don’t know the full extent of what sound waved do, but my suggestion is that sound/frequency plays a significant role in paranormal activity.

Where do we go from here? The answer may be to keep an open mind and experiment, experiment. Nothing can be ruled out in the unknown. Nothing.

Greene, B. (1999). The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. New York: Norton.

Herbert, N. (1985). Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics. New York: Anchor Press.

Hossell, K.P. (2003). Sonar. Chicage, Ill.: Heinemann Library.

Murchie, G. (1978). The Seven Mysteries of Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Ghosts and Gods

In contrast to the modern conception of ghosts, many ancient societies not only thought that awe-inspiring gods were a form of ghost, but also believed that it was appropriate to lump spirits of nature and monsters into their definition of ghosts. In other words, ghosts were not necessarily the dead. They were anything that was nonhuman. In this view, ghosts were everywhere and it was not good to offend them, particularly since all ghosts (whatever they were) were the buffer between the perceptible world and unpredictable, possibly destructive, nature. Not willing to take chances, many ancient cultures treated ghosts with respect, whether they were gods, monsters, or earth spirits (Robinson, 1972).

Symbolic Meaning

If anything, early ghosts were a form of spiritual archetype. That is, they were complex expressions of the law and order that underlined both cosmos and the phenomenal world. While these archetypes weren’t conscious in the same way as humans are conscious, they represented an awareness of universal existence. These were no ordinary ghosts! Unlike traditional ghosts that we know, these ghosts possessed a form of transcendent consciousness that wasn’t, and still isn’t, normally available to human consciousness.

As the expression of transcendent universal consciousness, ghosts were divinity dressed in changing material, or semi-material, forms that illustrated different functions in life (Tigunait, 1983). In interaction with humans, these ghosts had their own form of communication, a form that mainly relied on the transmission of ideas through subtle autonomic stimuli. That is, ghosts didn’t communicate with words or ideas; they “spoke’ directly to the body. That means ghosts manifested through gut feeling, not through intellect. Since ancient people were a lot better at gut communication than we are today, ghosts of antiquity (of all kinds) were more widely accepted. If nothing else, the living used communication with ghosts to learn about “the other world.” That is, interest in ghosts was based mainly on curiosity of alternate worlds, not on earthly horror.

Ancient Curiosity
Since many ancient cultures believed that life and death were merely two sides of one coin, they wanted to know how to deal with the whole of being. In short, they wanted to understand how life connected to death and how death influenced life. Life and death were merely stops on the great line of continuation. As a result of this belief, the educated elite of antiquity pursued studies that, today, we’d consider unworthy of study. Indeed, for many early scholars, ghosts were a normal phenomenon that, as I have mentioned, included many forms of spirit. As an example of what I mean, consider the Christian expression “Holy Ghost.” Obviously, this ghost doesn’t mean a dead being restlessly roaming the earth. In contrast, it refers to the essence of Christian ideology, a classification that was common during the days of early Christianity. In earlier times, a Holy Ghost made perfect sense.

Qualities of Early Ghosts

While early ghosts could be scary, their “scariness” wasn’t necessarily due to fear of death. If anything, many ghosts linked to deities that were connected to fertility and the concept of re-emergence from darkness, positive qualities that were traditionally feminine. For this reason, female fertility ghosts/gods often represented the harvest and/or birth and were symbolized by cows, grain, and other classically female attributes. In short, the dynamic life/death cycle was second nature for female divinity.

Male gods weren’t so lucky. In contrast to female deities who peacefully expressed laws of nature, male symbolic figures expressed the dramatic struggles that we now associate with ghostly activity. Indeed, some important male gods only became spiritually significant as ghosts after a violent (and often bloody) end. I speak of gods like Egyptian Osiris who, traditionally, was dismembered and later reassembled as a powerful deity.

Osiris wasn’t the only one who met a dreadful end. In fact, the theme of dismemberment and resurrection as a nonmaterial, but conscious, form occurs so often in stories of male gods that one may suppose that, in some respects, divine male ghosts were evolved spiritual beings who were forced to give up body to survive as a god/ghost.

Not Just Gory Ghost Stories
Resurrection tales aren’t just violent ghost stories. The stories apparently illustrated the concept of an active libido that transcended death. Yes, sex played a role, although not as eroticism. Rather, as Jung (1976) suggests, the libido of spirits was a symbol of longing and the restless urge of unsettled spirits that look, but never find, a desired object. Perhaps, the greatest desire rested on an unconscious wish to re-emerge from the darkness of ignorance. The bottom line was that, because many male gods didn’t have an innate understanding of the female life/death cycle, they had to learn the hard way, namely, by undergoing a major crisis that transformed libido from sexual urge to transcendent understanding. Death presented the choice between becoming a demon, an ogre, a ghost of repetitive action, or an enlightened, godly ghost.

Is there an example of the fate of a god/ghost? Yes, take the example of Dionysus, a god who began as a quirky elevated spirit, but who, unfortunately, later became Bacchus, the Roman god of sensual overindulgence. In many ways, rediscovering the original Dionysus is a form of resurrection.

Dionysian Intoxication
Yes, Dionysus was the god of wine but wine was only a material symbol for spiritual intoxication and frenzied abandon. As an ethereal, otherworldly being, Dionysus represented symbols of the occult world that we frequently associate with ghosts: moon, night, fig tree, cold, and moisture. Escape from human ego was the ultimate goal. In essence, Dionysian spirituality didn’t deny the existence of a supernatural world. Intoxication was escape from rationality that took the form of controlled madness (Shlain, 1998). In this spirituality, the world of darkness wasn’t necessarily dead.

Frequently associated with the horns of a bull (Wilson, 1973; Shlain, 1998), Dionysus later became an early relative of the Devil, particularly because the two horns hinted that there isn’t one exclusive form of consciousness. There are many realities. To emphasize this point, Dionysus was usually portrayed as a man with female qualities.

Mystic Dionysus
Gaskell (1960) writes that, although Dionysus was divine, the Supreme Zeus sent him to Earth where he was brought up in the darkness of a cave. From this humble cave, his goal was to find his way back to divinity. The vine that represented Dionysus symbolized earthly life that, if guided correctly, grew upwards to the heavens bearing worldly fruit. In effect, Dionysus was a child of two worlds who acknowledged both the natural and the supernatural. Nothing was impossible.

Such breadth of consciousness seems desirable, but it also has a dark side: Dionysus, like a number of other god/ghosts, didn’t act in ways that were clearly good or bad. Good or evil depended entirely on the quality of underlying wishes (Woods, 1973). In this respect, the association of Dionysus with magic was appropriate because, like dual Dionysus, magic could be positive or negative, depending on a practitioner’s intent (Wilson, 1973). In the same vein, ghosts could either be positive or negative. Positive ghosts were good. They were a desirable addition to a household.

Dark or Light?
In spite of his dual nature, Dionysus was a god/ghost with a purpose. Under the influence of his mad dissolution of boundaries, he could bestow the gift of divination just as easily as he could condemn a person to the depths of emotional turmoil (Shlain, 1998). In short, as a god/ghost, Dionysus was a source of both creativity and insanity. Sure, dealing with Dionysus posed a risk, but, as many creative artists would attest even today, the inspirational rewards are almost always worth the risk. There’s no one way to do anything . . . even hunt ghosts.

The best way to investigate is to keep an open mind. Once again, the power of Dionysus rested on destruction of the ego that blocks the experience of what Washburn (1988) calls the “dynamic ground,” or the state of being that influences mystical illumination. With dissolution of the ego, an open soul recognizes that ghosts, or other forms of the paranormal, fit neatly into a broad psycho-dynamic universe in which harmonious cooperation between light and dark plays a vital role in our understanding. That we’re frightened isn’t the fault of ghosts. Our ignorance is to blame. In fact, we’re the ones who must be helped. Worship of god/ghosts like Dionysus offered help because, as Washburn further suggests, the dread and ecstasy of Dionysus are the same. To get the full picture of reality that we need, we must accept all forms of consciousness because we can also use them for investigation.

The Message of Dionysus
That ghosts exist because of ignorance is a radical suggestion, but, to reach the state of mind that’s best for the investigation of spirits, we must face all fears of the unknown. Why? Because these fears say more about us than they do about gods, ghosts, and monsters that we try to study. If we wish to discover more, we must go beyond intellect into, yes, a sort of Dionysian frenzy in which unconscious fears rise into the light of consciousness without intervention of intellect (Jung 1968; 1976).

By doing so, we rediscover that light is dark and dark is light. In this way, we find that, when we finally reintroduce intellectual analysis into investigation, there will be a lot more profound insights to work with. Happy hunting!

Campbell, J. (1968). The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ:: Princeton UP.

Gaskell, G. A. (1981). Dictionary of All Scriptures and Myths. New York; Avenel, New Jersey: Gramercy Books.

Jung, C. G. (1968). Psychology and Alchemy. (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton, N. J.: Princeton UP. (Original work published 1944, revised 1952)

Jung, C. G. (1976). Symbols of Transformation (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton, N. J.: Princeton UP. (Original work published 1912, revised 1952)

Robinson, C.E. (1972). Everyday Life in Ancient Greece. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shlain, L. (1998). The Alphabet Versus The Goddess. New York: Viking Penguin.

Tigunait, P.R. (1983). Seven Systems of Indian Philosophy. Honesdale, Pennylvania: The Himalayan International Institute.

Washburn, M. (1988). The Ego and The Dynamic Ground: A Transpersonal Theory of Human Development. Albany: SUNY Press.

Wilson, C. (1973). The Occult. Frogmore, St. Albans, Great Britain: Mayflower Books Limited.

Woods, W. (1996). A History of the Devil. London: W.H. Allen.

Mediums, How to view Pyschics and Sensitives

Are mediums a fraud? It may be tempting to think so, but there’s more to mediums than contemporary society thinks. Two reasons for the rejection of mediums are that: 1) they do something we don’t understand; 2) mediums themselves don’t often say much about what they do, probably because they also can’t rationally explain their powers. Where no clear explanations exist, we think something is a fraud.

The reason for silence on the part of mediums is that there isn’t much to say. Rational explanations aren’t only a waste of time, they’re detrimental to the medium because analytical thought is antithetic to the state of mind that mediums use. They don’t think; they receive, As a consequence, mediums don’t do much-the less they do, the better it is.

It may seem insulting to say mediums don’t do much, but this isn’t an insult. Good mediums do nothing better than nearly anyone else. We don’t appreciate this ability because we don’t comprehend the art of doing nothing. Mediums often don’t know the secret of their powers, because there’s no secret to their ability. They do what comes most easily to them. There’s no formal education. They simply do what they do.

There are some interesting things about a medium’s consciousness. For example, mediums posses a sensitivity to stimuli that we’ve learned to screen out. With our current consciousness, we simply don’t acknowledge everything that’s around us. Mediums naturally possess true vision. What does that mean? It means mediums haven’t adopted the selective vision that we normally use to define reality. They use their senses more intensely.

Some would say mediums are anomalies of nature. No. We are anomalies of nature. At one time, all humans had mediumistic talents. . . .

Prehistoric Times
Mediums may actually be the world’s oldest profession: in ancient pre-verbal cultures, humans used a subtle form of communication that was very much like telepathy. We assume that early humans grunted and waved their arms to communicate, but the truth, more likely, is that communication was more sophisticated than we assume. Rather than relying on speech, early humans had the natural ability to sense all feeling and all movements in their environment and respond to them accordingly. In effect, early humans accessed parts of the brain that provided the most acute animal senses. That was how, without sophisticated weapons, early humans found food and protected themselves from both seen and unseen enemies.

Considering their heightened sensitivity, it’s significant that early humans believed in spirits-many of them. Some spirits may have been what we call “ghosts,” but, for early humanity, these were merely part of the general “spirit world.” A few spirits were considered malevolent, but many were not. Spirits were merely part of daily life. One learned to either deal with spirits or call in a shaman to intervene.
It was when cortical consciousness began to evolve that humanity lost the capacity to communicate with the spirit world. As consciousness developed, this world increasingly began to be considered a fabrication of the imagination.

Continuing the Tradition
Unlike many of us, mediums may well maintain the traditional ability to tap into the same part of the brain that was accessible to early humanity. Yes, but why did they keep this talent? I have no explanation, other than to suggest that a genetic predisposition is responsible for their talent..
With the right genes, it’s a matter of actualized predisposition . . . . and circumstance whether one becomes a medium or not. Over history, the talent for becoming a medium has very much been a family matter-very much in the same way that a talent for sorcery often is a family tradition. The talent is less “magic” than an acquired tendency to use the brain in a certain way. Perhaps, there’s a marked tendency to right hemispheric dominance in the brain.

It would be interesting to see how mediums, in general, compare to others with right hemispheric dominance. What’s the critical difference? Perhaps it’s only a matter of believing one is receptive to another reality. There’s nothing supernatural.

What Do Mediums Do Today?
In the language of today, what do mediums actually do? Mediums.have a natural ability to pick up active wave patterns that we can’t hear, but which “speak” to those who are open to them. These waves are so subtle that they’re out of the range of normal human hearing. Some animals have sensitive hearing that picks up these waves-which is why many animals react strongly to paranormal phenomena that’s out of the range of human perception. It’s likely that mediums tap into the part of the nervous system that responds to unaccustomed wave patterns.

Instead of hearing as we normally do, mediums, much like a radio receiver, “hear” though the lapping of sound waves against the body. This isn’t to say that mediums actually hear in the same way that we do. Instead, they have the ability to take in waves and translate them into verbal images that impart meaning to the waves. A psychologist may say a medium picks up the intention driving sound waves.

Science and Mediums
Being a medium sounds neat and fairly straightforward, so.why does science thumb its nose at mediums? There must be problems. What are they?

As with much paranormal phenomena, consistency is the problem. At this time, it’s impossible to test mediums so that a test yields coherent results that show up on demand. Paranormal phenomena is simply too variable! We must take into consideration that what mediums tell us is an interpretation, much as with astrology. The dynamic behind interpretation is consistent, but the interpreter is dealing with an influence that has a broad range of possibilities. For this reason, an insightful medium might research general feelings and the history of the place that he or she examines, then matches these up with actual events, This was essentially done at Delphi when a questioner looked for messages from the gods about specific matters.

At the oracle of Delphi, there were two steps to interacting with spirits. The first step was for specially trained priestesses to pick up energies from the spiritual world and to relate exactly what they experienced without thinking about the meaning of what they saw. The second step was for specially trained priests to hear what the priestesses experienced at the oracle and to interpret their visions. The motive behind this process was that different jobs used different areas of the brain, and that the most insightful interactions with the spirit world involved a meshing of two ways of seeing.

The New View
In an almost uncanny replay of traditions at Delphi, contemporary investigators of the paranormal today follow a similar mode of mixing mentalities: in addition to investigators that measure and make notes, mediums frequently add emotional input.

I’ll be honest: I’m something of a skeptic. While mediums often provide colorful, and dramatic, input, I can’t tell what’s believable and what’s not. As a writer, I appreciate a good story, but I can’t help feeling that imagination is getting the upper hand in many investigations. No one likes a boring ghost story! How often do mediums feel compelled to feel something out of the ordinary?

On the other hand, I do believe there’s a lot of subtle information that we miss. There’s no reason to dispute that some individuals have heightened senses. Because I don’t have these senses, there’s no reason to believe that others can’t have them.

It would probably help if I understood the process of mediums and I knew that mediums understood my process as a thinking person. I know I’m contradicting my premise that an investigation needs two minds, but I’m actually proposing that an investigator can individually develop these two minds in normal life-even out the range of paranormal Investigation. Even without curiosity about the paranormal, it seems we would profit psychologically from having a broad mind that has access to both minds. We would become open to what isn’t part of our experience.

Is that possible? It is. Our obstacle is that a new approach to education doesn’t yet exist. We don’t yet know that the future of paranormal investigation doesn’t depend on fancier tools; it depends on our ability to broaden our perceptions to such an extent that the paranormal seems normal. Mediums will have training, and not be viewed as a questionable source of information.

We shall, at last, emerge from the Dark\Ages of the modern world.