What Are You Looking For?
As I wandered around La Purisima mission in the dead of night under a full moon, I was graced with some insights: I enjoy trespassing onto land that is not privately held, and therefore should be the patrimony of the curious public; I love ruins and abandoned places; I think that something/someone is often walking with me, or with the group, but I have no idea as to the nature of it. People react differently to not knowing the nature of certain phenomena. Some are content to think that after we die, God and angels and heaven await. The stereotypical view of Heaven strikes me as infantile and silly. Who, after the beauty and complexity of Earth and life on Earth wishes to spend eternity in a place that sounds something like a delusion of some crystal gazing, New Age, post-hippy bourgeois who now drives a mini van with a bumper sticker proclaiming that their kids were all Students of the Month at the local gifted school? Please, don't let me become one of the Angels on Key Chains crowd. I am also not the dedicated atheist/professional skeptic who delights in ripping apart all mysterious or unexplained phenomena with a wave of the Materialist wand, or the sneer of the scientist/philosopher who knows what is possible, and what isn't. Such misplaced pride is repugnant to me, since no one can presume to know what happens to the soul after death. And don't tell me that I have no soul, or that my spirit is a creation of my brain, and that when my brain dies, everything that I am or was will cease to exist in any form. I don't believe that, and my lack of belief is directly related to my experience and my research; it is not a result of rampant wish fulfillment. However, it is also true that I cannot explain what it is that I am experiencing when I wander around a place such as Camarillo or La Purisima. Members of the team send me their EVPs, and now I have a couple of my own. Often, Ty and I can't get past issues of interpretation. I hear "you can hear your voice" in a snippet of a recording that was taken while we were at La Purisima and listening to the echoes our words made when we spoke next to a certain wall. He doesn't hear it, and I do; if he did hear it, he would insist that one of us had said it. Even though I KNOW none of us made that statement (the voice sounds nothing like the others), I cannot PROVE that one of us did not. Therefore, it ends up on the dust heap of useless evidence. Another one: I say, "are you still with us?" and right after, a whispered "no". Again, not my voice or anyone else's, since we have a policy of silence between requests for communication. In Camarillo, there is the distinct sound of a child singing behind our talking. I have the audio file. Anyone can hear it. We all agree that none of us was singing, and that we do not sound like small children anyway. So there is the rub: there is no way to convince everyone of the authenticity of these voices. Even if I were totally alone and recorded a clear voice that was not mine, who would really believe me? What would I have proven? There lies the more serious rub, if you will; even if everyone, even hard-nosed academics and scientists (to whom we have given the authority in this culture to make such decisions on truth and authenticity) were to all say, "yes, that is not a voice emanating from any human or radio transmission in the area" what have I proven? Only that I have a recorded a voice for which there is no explanation. The question is, of course, WHO or WHAT is speaking to me? The skeptic will always reply that I have picked up a stray radio wave, or some freak echo effect has occurred, or simply that we don't know what it is, but that doesn't mean it's paranormal. It doesn't mean that the dead are talking. Yes . . . but . . . when a member of the team announces on his recording that he is leaving the building and some voice (not belonging to any of the three of us that were up in the abandoned building 26 in Camarillo) responds "coward" in a whispery hiss, I know something. I know that it wasn't a stray transmission, an elaborate trick by some clever voice thrower; I know how it feels to hear something like that. It sends off every alarm in your body, raises your hackles (whatever those are) and chills you to the bone. What makes these recordings so amazing is the CONTEXT in which they occur. They are often responding to YOUR questions, making relevant remarks according to the situation at hand. How do I feel about that? Conflicted. When I told my parents about these excursions and the resultant evidence of something strange going on, the reaction was interesting. My sister doesn't want me to send her any of these recordings. My parents don't want to hear them either. Why not? They are afraid of whatever it is that is responding to me. I wonder about that, too. I don't know the nature of this communication. I cannot identify the source, and I don't know what any of this means about life after death. Who is talking to us? Are they actually human? Can one still be human after death, or is humanity defined by life? What are we after death? A collection of strange voices and quickly vanishing apparitions? Are we simply a disturbance in the electrical field? What does that mean about the afterlife? Why would some of us NOT LEAVE these places? How do we perceive ourselves after death? Do we feel as real and whole as we do in life, or are we aware of our apparently tenuous reality and our vastly diminished ability to communicate with the living? Are we not SUPPOSED to be in communication with the living? Is this a dangerous interest of ours? Perhaps those who are still lingering around mental hospitals or old missions are unhealthy and unhappy souls who are not progressing, not transforming themselves into something else, not reincarnating, not enjoying a higher level of consciousness, but stuck in time and place unable to figure out what the hell happened. I don't wish to be meddling in something that is forbidden, but I don't know who would be forbidding it, or exactly why. What I do hope to learn is what is left of consciousness after death. It is a fascinating question, and I think it would give me a new perspective on the nature of life itself. Yes, it is frustrating that the answer to that question is so elusive, mysterious and difficult to interpret. I also think that many times the answers are right in our face, but we are too afraid or limited in our thinking to accept the obvious; and I do think that it is obvious that something persists of us all after death--what we can't do is define it for everyone, once and for all. That leaves us wandering in the dark asking questions to spirits that can only communicate in quick, odd sentences or strangely intoned words that appear to be traveling vast distances to reach us. Perhaps they are not "at" these locations at all; in fact, what sense does it make to say that something like a soul or a spirit "is" anywhere? They certainly can't be bound by location, or at least I don't like to think that they are. The fact that I am having such difficulty expressing myself is proof that my subject matter is ethereal and very hard to capture; and if I did somehow 'capture' the ultimate truth about the nature of consciousness, who would believe me? What would it change? Humanity would surely continue its rampage across the planet, plundering and destroying our temporary home. I doubt that we would become miraculously transformed. I fear that proof of life after death--that all could somehow accept--would only make us disregard even further the life that we have now. We would value it even less, thinking that we had infinite second chances. If we knew life was forever, why bother to cherish and value it? After all, it would be an endless commodity. We would lose what little restraint and control we possess regarding our respect and love for life, like the child who knows that there is an eternal trust fund that will pay for his every whim and caprice. It would be so wonderful to know that we'll live on and on, except that if we humans didn't fear death and nothingness, we would destroy ourselves and each other. There is, therefore, an important reason for our denial and refusal to acknowledge what we are figuring out in our little ghost hunter groups. The less we know for sure, the better for all of us. So I will "hunt" the ghosts and they will hunt me, but we have made a secret pact: I'll pretend I'm not sure you exist, and you'll pretend that you just might be a stray radio transmission. We'll all be better off for our little deception in the end.