I have recently been in correspondence with one of the readers of this blog, by the name of Wayne Cole, who was kind enough to share some of his reflections after reading my book Apparitions. In his writings, Wayne ponders some key questions – crucial for those of us interested in psychical research – about the nature of reality and our perception of it. With his permission, I thought of sharing some of his thoughts with my broader audience, for this is indeed very nourishing food for thought. In a very personal manner, Wayne begins by saying:
“I’ve experienced many things that I’ve not been able to readily explain. Though I cannot point to anyone of those events as being proof of the existence of the paranormal, I will take them as evidence. I can readily admit that the ghost I saw years ago could be explained as a hypnopompic state; the UFO I saw flying overhead may have been a very, very strange acting weather balloon; the disincarnate voice of a recently departed loved one which was experienced by both myself and my wife separately and on separate days and who said exactly the same thing (an event we only recently shared with one another) may have been grief; the countless number of synchronistic events and déjà vu type experiences that have filled my life may just be all in my head. . . But what isn’t, in the end, in our heads? And does that make any of these events untrue? What is true? That is it, isn’t it? We are left with a lot of questions. If anything it seems we must get used to living with a fairly high level of uncertainty.”
Then his reflection deepens:
“I’ve often thought that some of our difficulties in approaching the paranormal, whether it be apparitions, UFOs and/or other PSI related phenomena, may lie in our definitions of terms like “real”, “physical”, “objective” and “subjective”. In some of the phenomena there appears to be a materially real or physical component, sometimes there is not and then sometimes inexplicably there can be both! Same goes with the so-called objective/subjective aspects. For instance two or more people can perceive the same apparition which another in the same group cannot see. And yet, those who can see it can describe the apparition’s characteristics in such a way that points to an objective reality. To complicate matters further, that objectively real apparition can also present itself in a subjective manner to different percipients (e.g. gesturing towards one person while not appearing to move at all to the other person). Obviously, this points to a reality most of us are not at all acquainted with. And the reductive materialist paradigm that most of us are raised to believe in cannot in any way accommodate this view of reality. It can only dismiss or deride. It seems we may have to redefine our very conceptions of “matter”. Maybe “matter” is not at all what we’ve been led to believe. To me, feeling that I’ve rationally weighed the evidence available, I’ve had no choice but to abandon the dominant reductive materialist paradigm. Sometimes, though, I’m not certain where this leaves me. In fact, it seems what we normally perceive as our waking reality may be as Pascal noted, “. . . a dream a little less inconstant”. I am endlessly fascinated by this!
In another striking example, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, two unconnected groups of people who did not know each other and were in separate cars at the same crowded intersection perceived what they referred to as a UFO. They then filed two separate reports and were apparently the only ones to take note of it amongst the many present at that time at the intersection! What is going on here? Not only we seem to have similarities between so called UFOs and apparitions (in as they can be perceived or not perceived, or perceived differently, by different people at the same time), but also with mythology and folklore in this latter case because the two parties saw the “UFO” at a crossroads!
The implications are staggering. What we are presented with is a series of phenomena and mental states that seem at first glance disparate and unconnected but are actually upon closer examination interconnected upon a continuum. The nexus point seems to be consciousness itself! It seems to me that we should tread carefully when applying labels such as “real”, “physical”, “objective”, and “subjective”. That is certainly not to say that definitions do not have their use or that we should not be willing to use our minds to sift through the evidence and follow it were it seems to lead weighing both logical possibilities and empirical possibilities. But I believe when we settle on an answer we should also be careful in defining it as Truth. In the end, I think, we must be willing to sit with and be open to the question. The True Believer says, I believe, therefore. . . The Skeptic says, I do not believe, therefore . . . And both find their expectations met. But, after all, ‘tis but a part we see, and not a whole.”
Well, what more can I say? What more can be said as such? Wayne seems to me to beautifully capture, as I said, some crucial elements of the debate we’re all interested in. We must thank him for this contribution, then, and leave it at that?
No, there is one last, and, for me, essential element that has to be disclosed. The beautiful and beautifully expressed thoughts you’ve just been reading about are not, as one may expect, the product of the mind of a highly learned scholar or a famous academic, or the musings of an old sage. Wayne writes:
“I’ve spent my entire 38 years living in small-town New England in the United States. I currently live with my wife, Neva and our 4 year-old daughter, Lila in the house I grew up in together with my Mom and Dad. My two older sisters live close by with their families. I’ve worked as a mason for the last 15 years alongside my Dad who is a master mason. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful, loving, kind and supportive family.”
Well… I must thank Wayne, very personally, because getting to know him and learning about his story and thoughts rekindled my love and appreciation for mankind, so dramatically challenged by the happenings all around us. All this reminds me, yet again, that people can think beautifully, that refined introspection and reflection can be found in absolutely all walks of life. And, perhaps, that there is indeed some truth about the idea that some individuals have a much older, experienced and wiser soul that others…