Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lucia talks about "Thin Through the Power of Spirit"

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Remembering Lucia

It's been awhile since I've posted. I have been very busy with coursework toward my doctorate and honing my dissertation topic of audience reception of paranormal-based reality media and the possibility of its being used as a form of death education. Speaking about these ideas in academia sometimes gets me an uncomfortable response -- just using the word "paranormal" in relation to academic research has caused even some of my closest friends to question my ideas and seriousness. One friend even said, "Why don't you choose a topic that would allow people to take you more seriously? Aren't you afraid of being discredited and losing respect of your peers?"

One person in my life who has always been receptive and open to these topics was also one of the most intelligent, well-read, and kind people I have met. Her spirituality and knowledge always amazed me. I spoke to her a week ago when she was going up to Lilydale in upstate New York, the town that is filled with psychic mediums.

In light of my dissertation topic, and having read a book on the history of Lilydale (and having relatives who have gone there), I have been trying to get someone to go with me to that place, but could not find anyone interested enough. This weekend at Lilydale, I was hoping to go with someone to see Jason and Grant from Ghost Hunters, who will be present there to speak and meet with fans. When Lucia told me last week she was going up to Lilydale last weekend, I was jealous and wished I could go along. I told her that I wished I had known she was going because I would have asked to join her, but then said, “Now that I know you would be interested in going, perhaps we can plan a trip up there together.” We were going to meet for lunch this week to talk about her experiences and catch up. Unfortunately, while Lucia was up near Lilydale, she and her friend were in a horrendous accident and they were both killed. It was very sad to hear, but I know she was spiritually in a good place. Teachers College did this tribute to her.

I am fortunate to have known her, and fortunate to have a podcast of her talking about her book, "Thin Through the Power of Spirit."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mortality Salience = Love 'em or Hate 'em

I was walking down the street recently and realized that everyone around me was just aggravating me. I felt as if I didn't like anybody. People were annoying. Especially people who were different from me or who have different priorities, backgrounds, hobbies, and ways of doing things. Too many dogs on leashes, too much dog waste on the sidewalk, too many strollers blocking my path, too many slow-moving people in front of me. I didn't feel as if I liked ANYONE.

As I was experiencing this dislike for most of the people around me, I recalled reading a story about a man (Howard Storm) who had a near death experience (NDE), before which he was similarly cranky and unhappy, but additionally treated people in a nasty, condescending, rude and abrupt way. He expressed no belief in afterlife or a deity or any reglious doctrine. During his NDE he initially experienced negative entities who seemed to take pleasure in hurting and lashing out at him as well as pleasure in his anger at them. Ultimately he came to the conclusion for various reasons that he should pray to Jesus, something he was not accustomed to doing. After he did that, his experience changed to a light-filled positive experience that changed his beliefs and outlook on life from that time on. After returning to his body he said that he felt love for everyone he saw because he was shown during the experience that we are all connected and that love was a key element to growth and life enhancement.

So as I walked down the street, I thought of this cranky man waking up from this "scrooge" experience and loving everyone around him (to their discomfort). And I wondered if I could feel love for the people around me and, if not, why not? Why was it that I was so turned off by everyone's differences from me?

And I realized on the other hand that there is a theory called Terror Management Theory (TMT) that says that the more mortality salience we have, the more judgmental and territorial oriented we are -- with an "us/them" sense of the world. For some reason, this theory says, that a stronger sense of self-esteem (i.e. feeling like "I'm better than you" and "My way is better than your way") helps fend off a fear of death. I don't really understand why that would be the conclusion, and I don't necessarily agree with it, but those who have put forth TMT have done research on these responses by people who are reminded about the reality of death.

It seems to me that this difference in response to mortality salience -- being aware of one's ultimate demise--comes from the way one is reminded of one's mortality. From a real near-death experience in which one narrowly escapes death versus talk about or reference to death's reality. I personally have not had an NDE but my awareness of death's reality is fairly substantial -- so perhaps that is why I exhibited the negative response to people???? Who knows. I think it has nothing to do with my mortality salience and more to do with my salience that life is hard and sometimes other people make life harder for me. And sometimes they make it easier. That day, I didn't find anyone helping to make it easier.

Then you get the Christmas Spirit and holiday generosity -- the "feel good" season -- giving food to the needy (this one time a year?) and coats and blankets to the homeless (as if this is the only time to give something and as if that is what and how to give).

But that is another subject altogether...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

4th Dimension and Ghost Adventures

Just a quick note -- I was watching Ghost Adventures Friday night and Zak and his guys were interviewing a witness to an entity that interacted with him. He said the entity moved a long distance in a matter of a second and that it "reached inside" of his body, squeezed his lungs till the air was emptied out of them, and then told him to "Get out of here." How does that relate to the 4th Dimension? Looking again at the post on hyperdimension, it illustrates that leaving the 3-dimensional plane of physical existence may allow us to be in a 4th dimension in which we can see inside of the people we see in the 3rd dimensional world. I thought it was interesting that this witness said the entity reached inside his body and affected his ability to breathe. Even if we can observe the 3rd dimension from the 4th, I wonder how it might be possible to interact with it from that point, especially when people who have near death experiences say that they tried speaking with people around them and were not heard or noticed.

The GA guys also went to an abandoned insane asylum to investigate. Again, I find it questionable that they leave investigators alone with a camera -- on this episode they locked one of the investigators into a body compartment in the former morgue, with a camera on the inside and a camera on a tripod on the outside pointed at the doors. Then the other two investigators proceeded to explore other parts of the asylum and "get lost" as they put it. When Nick, the investigator locked in the morgue compartment, began to get claustrophobic, or uncomfortable, in that space, he could not get out, and the others could not hear him kicking at the door and yelling to let him out. Fortunately, they did have a radio to talk to him with, but at one point, it appeared the radio did not work. They also were off in some other part of the building and were not sure how to get back to him. If something were really to go wrong, that would be an irresponsible practice. Especially the fact that he had no way of getting out of the morgue compartment except for someone to unlock it from the outside.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another show like Ghost Hunters

I happened to catch another show that attempts to do what Ghost Hunters does. It is on the Travel Channel and it is called Ghost Adventures. Three guys with digital video cameras get locked into a haunted area and provoke spirits that reportedly haunt the places and people in that location. Zak Bagans (like Bilbo?) is the leader of the pack. He says in the intro that he saw an entity and decided to catch it on film, and now they investigate other reportedly haunted places to get evidence on film.

Unlike Ghost Hunters, they do not have a camera crew with them -- it is filmed totally by the three investigators. Also unlike Ghost Hunters, they do not appear to have a rule that they never send anyone into an area alone.

What I noticed immediately in watching this show is that Zak yells and screams and insults whatever entity it is he is trying to contact (no respect!) in order to provoke it. I found the yelling to be annoying to ME as a viewer and imagine if I were a ghost I would probably throw something at him, too, as he is trying to make happen in some of the episodes. The other difference I saw between GA and GH is that these guys seem genuinely scared of what is happening to them, while Jason and Grant on GH almost never exhibit fear, but excitement or curiosity at what they see, hear or experience. (Jason and Grant also show the supposed entities a bit more respect, though they occasionally try to provoke with lightly condescending comments). On more than one episode of GA, the investigator actually lets out a yell and runs away (which I know I would do, too), but it makes me wonder why they do this at all if they are so afraid of it all.

Their web site has a number of video clips from the show. One thing I liked that they have done is to have an expert analyze the video clips to authenticate what is shown on the video as not having been tampered with and not having been staged. Here is a clip of one video analysis from the show.

I do predict this show will be successful, though, because they do exhibit genuine fear and shocked reactions to the experiences they are having.

string theory and NDEs

Well, I think I have it right -- that string theory is related to multiple dimensions. I read an interesting article about how hyperdimensions may explain experiences of people who claim to have near-death experiences or out-of-body experiences.

Dr. Robert Brumblay wrote in the Journal of Near Death Studies a simplified explanation of how to understand the effect of hyperdimensions.

My understanding of what he wrote is that if we were living in a one-dimensional universe, it would be as if we were living along a line (which is where the term "string" comes from in string theory, from what I understand). We could see only what was in front of us or behind us along the line. We would not be able to imagine anything other than a one-dimensional existence. If there were a dot on the line, it would be as a wall is and block any view of any other individual on the line next to us. We would not be able to see anyone other than the one-dimensional beings to either side of us. If we somehow were lifted away from the line into the 2nd dimension, moving past the dot would not be impossible, and seeing both other one-dimensional beings at once would be possible as well as seeing others along the line that would not have been visible while on the line in the one dimensional world. I could also see the entire being as it appears along the line. If it is darker vs. lighter in different places, which is something I could not see from my perspective on the line.

If I were a two-dimensional being I could see the back of the two-dimensional being in front of me and the front of the being behind me. It would be front, back, up and down only. If I rotated around those beings I could see the other side of them or see the being next to them. But if I were to flip out away from the two-dimensional plane and face it from a three-dimensional point of view, I could see not only both sides of the being next to me, I could see their entire being -- including what is inside the lines on the plane. Something I could not do in the two-dimensional existence. In writing this, I came across a description of a story called Flatland that apparently makes understanding dimensions easier, and it deals with a two-dimensional world and a one-dimensional world (Lineland).

As three-dimensional beings in a three-dimensional world, we know we can move front, back, up, down and side-to-side. Walls prevent us from moving forward, unless we go around them. Walls prevent us from seeing other people. But if we were to go outside the three-dimensional world into a fourth dimension walls would not be barriers any longer, we could see people in more than one place at the same time, and we could see those people in a way that is beyond the three-dimensions -- we could see inside of them, the same way the two-dimensional person in a third-dimension could see within the lines of the two-dimensional being they are looking at. There is a computerized demonstration game available on the web that is supposed to make this understandable. I could not download it to my computer, but it might be of interest.

So Brumblay writes that if someone were to leave the three-dimensional world through a near-death experience and enter a fourth dimension, these are the kinds of things that might be possible to them. In fact people who say they died on the operating table and floated up out of their body often claim to be able to see not only inside the operating room but also outside in the waiting room where their loved ones are sitting as well as being able to see inside the building, outside the building from the top of the building to the bottom, all at the same time. They also have claimed to see things like the fact that someone is pregnant and they are carrying a boy -- so they can see within a person. They can see different views of things at once -- the top of a table and the underside of the table at the same time.

I just thought it was interesting that a theory of physics that can be demonstrated mathematically can also potentially explain non-physical experiences of people who claim to have left their body temporarily.

There are a few blogs that talk about string theory and other dimensions. Here are a few:

Study Group of Physics UI

and a list of others from Wordpress.

I am reading a rough draft of a professor friend's book that touches on a number of issues relating to death. I am not able to write about what he is writing because his book is not published yet, but through his writing I am learning about theories that exist (like Terror Management Theory) regarding fear of death and denial of death that seem to fit what I want to focus on regarding people looking to media to provide answers to the question of life after death that science and religion are not able to. I will look up those theories and see what I can find that could be informative to my study.

I would like to see the film Flight From Death: The Quest for Immortality that looks at fear of death and the works of Ernest Becker, on which Terror Management Theory is apparently based.