Category Archives: Motivation

John Tenney Talks Patience. And Fishing.

New Vlog this week! Today we’re featuring paranormal researcher John EL Tenney, who’s amassed nearly thirty years experience in the field, documenting and studying everything from conspiracies to PSI. Staying consistent with the vlog’s theme toward misconceptions and new ways of thinking about ghost hunting, today we’re angling at patience. And fishing.

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Let’s Talk Provoking

I want to talk to you guys today about provoking spirits on a ghost hunt.

This always seems to be a popular topic to be asked about up at the Stanley on our ghost hunts and so I want to clarify it for many of the rest of you too:

Firstly, what is provocation?

Provocation is antagonizing a spirit on a ghost hunt in order to illicit an emotional reaction from them in a way that might manifest something happening. Technically speaking, it’s an incentive for the spirit to do something, albeit a not very nice one.

Most investigators will throw around insults in order to stir up such a reaction.

Usually the reaction is violent. It always makes me laugh on ghost hunts when someone gets super pissed off when a spirit attacks them after provocation.

Some investigators will draw lines about this. TAPS used the framework that they only provoke if it’s a negative entity with a history of attacking people

Provocation usually successfully brings such an entity out… but the results are usually less conclusive in seeing what the true nature of the spirit is. If you want to see if a spirit is violent and malevolent by nature, don’t insult it first. I can think of a number of living people not malevolent in nature who would react violently to such antagonism.

Dustin Pari for example, you might remember him provoking the elemental at Leap Castle in Ireland. He was picked up and thrown down for his verbal assault and he never provoked again.

Ghost Adventures uses the philosophy of putting as much energy as they can into the environment around them and, being as they’re often in dark places with dark histories, they often provoke these seemingly violent negative figures.

Does provoking work?

Yes. Fifty percent of the time. It usually stirs up spirits who are happy to fight. And annoys the ones who don’t want your bullshit.

Problems with provocation:

One of the biggest problems I’ve seen with provocation is this sense of entitlement from people. They pay to go on a ghost hunt, or they visit a haunted place and go out of their way to have an experience, and then they think that means they deserve it. News flash: ghosts are people too. And most spirits aren’t on the payroll for a location. They’re there for personal reasons. You treating them like shit because you think you deserve an experience really poorly reflects on your sense of place in the world.

Another problem is that you don’t know who you’re talking to. Just because reports might have a violent encounter or an ugly history doesn’t mean the spirit is evil or negative. Violent spirits often are violent for a reason. Go figure. If you listen to what they have to say, you’re often going to be surprised. How many living people do you know who had a sad, decidedly human story at the heart of their anger?

Problem three is that good spirits are often provoked. Like our spirit Lucy at the Stanley, who died young when she ran away from home. Provoking her would earn you the status of biggest douchebag ever. And would get you very little activity. She hangs out with us because she enjoys it.

Conclusion:

Give spirits as much respect as you think they deserve, and then be prepared for the consequences.

Many people believe that everyone deserves equal amounts of respect, no matter what their history. Loving everyone because hate is bad, no matter who you’re hating. Other people believe that there are some darker spirits out there, you don’t treat them well, and you might get some good results…. and entertaining television anyway.

Just be prepared when you get a smack to the face.

But that’s all I’ve got this week. As always,

My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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Moral Issues in Ghost Hunting

New Vlog this week! This one is a bit more casual, with me just talking to the camera about some of these ghost hunting topics, including the ethics of investigating a place of tragedy and the problems with charging for investigations.

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The Afterlife?

So Hallowtide is about Will’s journey through his personal hell. Since I’ve read the book, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the afterlife and ghosts… Do you believe that everyone has their own personal afterlife tailored specifically for them? Or does everyone have the same afterlife (according to their religion or beliefs)? Or maybe some elements are the same in everyone’s afterlife. I can’t help but think that maybe some ghosts are just living their afterlife and that’s why they haunt specific places. For example, heaven for them would be a particular place that made them the most happy and hell would be a particular place that gave them a horrible experience (where they died, where they were abused, etc.) -Kelly G

This is a great question, and one that I thought would make a good blog post to reply to. Without giving too much away, my novel Hallowtide is indeed about a young man and his journey to Hell. This journey seems to, at the most superficial, be taking place within his dreams. Dreams are a space of subconscious interaction, and many psychologists believe that this dream state is a good place to manifest the mind’s invisible. But the questions are raised within the book when it comes to the “truth” within these dreams, the “truth” of the subconscious, and the doors that opens to much of psychologist Carl Jung’s philosophy, in which there is a deeper layer of unconscious space, the Collective Unconscious, where the collective subtleties of a culture pool. Joseph Campbell took this idea and ran with it toward his search in finding universal consistencies within mythic hero stories. I bring this back in the novel to discussions about then what might be spiritually real happening within Will’s dreams.

The research and study that I did in college and my personal life while working on the novel has definitely melted into my own thoughts on the nature of the afterlife too. Obviously this is a popular topic of reflection too with my job as a ghost hunter.

While I’m actually quite taken with Jung’s mythology, I also find a certain foundation in the theory of Mystical Experiences. Much of mysticism (a broad, broad category in its own right) suggests that there are at least two levels of worlds (more often a spectrum between the two), one of which is this physical world in which we operate (the one of empiricism, the five senses, sciences, and that which we can document) and then the more Platonic world of ideals, ideas, the abstract, a space where perhaps morality and good and evil and intention are as tangible as here, the flesh. This is the spiritual world. This is the non-physical. It seems to me that the act of death is a shedding of the physical, and that whatever is at the core of our experience, this consciousness (soul, spirit, what have you) is then in this inherently non-physical, ineffable place beyond this world we know.

But it seems that these worlds intercross (a spectrum, as many mystics believe). Indeed, if we ourselves are physical and spiritual beings both, most pertinently then, within ourselves.

Emotions play an interesting role here that I haven’t come to a conclusion on. Emotions, I’ve always felt, are what help us to transcend this place. My inner romantic believes that emotions like true love, that deep, world-shaking (indeed, breaking) feelings of compassion, or utter selflessness (even hatred perhaps) transcends this world and puts us on the level of spiritual creatures. But we also find that with emotion is often material attachment. We often find ourselves most emotionally attached to things: temporary, physical, stuff. Whether that’s a person, a place, or a thing, all of which will fade in time.

Emotions then have this kind of two-fold place, where on the one hand I think that they can help us transcend to the non-physical, on the other they tie us to the physical. And I’ve found that with spirits, with these ghosts that we interact with, there always seems to be some kind of lingering attachment. And also, as might be an inherent part of this transition to the non-physical, their emotions and attachments often seem amplified.

There’s a story I like to share, the source of which has gotten fuzzy in my memory (but I think it was from Andy Coppock), of this spirit in an old run down California hospital. Creepy place. This spirit was apparently violent and angry down in the lower levels. But this team went down there, dispensed with the bull, said ‘stop yelling at us, and instead tell us why you’re so upset.’ And what they got from this spirit was that he’d been killed accidentally on the operating table when he was a patient at this hospital in the 60s. Being so upset about this, he made it his goal to try to scare everyone away from this hospital so that the same thing didn’t happen to them. But he was still seeing this hospital as functioning and running as it was the day he died.

This to me suggests a kind of correlation to the old cliches, the Sixth Sense and Casper ghosts who have unfinished business and who see what they want to see. It seems to me though that these emotions that become so pure after death, that surround these various focuses and objects of attachment, do align with a distortion of this physical reality, and the changes in ways of interaction that so go along with it.

But most importantly it suggests to me that the individual spiritual experience is a very powerful and oftentimes unique one.

And that oftentimes it’s layered with attachments, illusions (though who is to say what’s “real” when you’re operating beyond the real), and struggles.

Buddhists, in focusing around the elimination of dukha, (suffering or dis-ease) are focused–you could say–in the study of happiness. And they don’t believe that true happiness is found in material objects because they are temporary. Every single thing in this world will break down. You. Me. Your loved ones. And so finding happiness within them is not true happiness because it will eventually turn to sadness. It’s dependent. True happiness should be independent, and stand on its own. So even, I expect, for a spirit finding happiness–its own kind of Heaven–in something of the material world (a loved one, a home, an object), is not, under this kind of thinking, truly happy. It’s a kind of false happiness. One that, the Buddhists would suggest, is bested by the peace of inner-happiness and of acceptance. Or, as the mystics might suggest, the kind of peace found in transcendence, in moving on, in letting go, in embracing the spiritual, the divine–whatever that indescribable non-physical pinnacle is of such a world.

I think letting go of this pure physical reality is difficult for many of us and that it’s a lifetime(s) of learning what we’re here to learn and then trying to overcome the intoxication of the pleasures (and pain) of the physical that is a real challenge, but a necessary and natural one. Why we don’t see many spirits from the past few hundred years alone suggests that there’s something to move on to. Whether that’s reincarnation or a more pure form of non-physical spirituality (divinity, as some mystics would suggest) (or both), I think that isn’t not nearly so absolute a process of life and death as we think here in our physical world.

Beyond that, to suggest what people see then in their afterlife experiences, I think can be a bit messy. If they’re “seeing” something, there’s an inherent suggestion that there’s still something physical happening there. They have eyes to ‘see’ and that there is something to “be seen.” All of these would suggest that in such a setting there is a still some tie to the physical. So I think if someone is seeing something that can be described, it might be again, some kind of focus or attachment that’s overwhelming the pure experience that is the afterlife. Whether that’s guilt, or whether that’s a kind of excitement for something specific, I think it could become hard to trust.

While researching mysticism, we find this idea of people accessing the divine, the spiritual. Indeed, this is the foundation of many of the religions that surround the globe, especially the theistic ones. A person has an experience of something beyond the physical. They want to share this experience and they want to share how they discovered it (setting grounds for a belief and a set of practices, the foundational cornerstones of any ideology). Of course they try to describe it in words. But the experience is beyond the physical world. And words are a limited construction of the physical. You cannot describe the indescribable. You can only point at it). The mystic also describes it in terms of their culture, which can also be very limited. The culture picks and chooses which elements fit their framework for viewing the world, the experience is repeated, doctrine is described, and in its sharing with thousands of people, is often changed. And so, it’s no surprise to me that we get wildly differing accounts of religious experiences across the world.

So by putting any one religious theory of the afterlife over another, or even trying to describe it in words at all, is to muddy the waters. But I hope that this gives some idea of my perspectives on it all. Certainly I come from a very mystical perspective, one that has lead to a much more pluralistic religious perspective, but one that sustains a lot of respect to all religions and belief systems.

But I certainly don’t know. Many far smarter than I have written many books on the subject. Some of which are quite good, many of which I haven’t gotten to yet. But this framework is what at the moment makes the most kind of sense to me, and ultimately, as structured the question, what found its way into the story of my first novel, Hallowtide. 

Any more questions? Disagreements? Furthering thoughts? Dive into a conversation below. But keep it cool. Religion is touchy. Death is frightening. And we’re all just trying to figure it out.

Karl Pfeiffer is the author of the novel Hallowtide. After winning the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, he went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then he’s graduated Colorado State University with a degree in Creative Writing and an emphasis on Religious Studies. He works at the Stanley Hotel leading the weekend public ghost hunts and writes for the TAPS Paramagazine. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

Philanthropy Continued

I was going to leave this as a comment response, but I liked the bend in the conversation and I liked challenging notions of entertainment. So I want to keep the conversation going and see what you guys think.

Robynn left this comment the other day:

I’d suggest that reading purely as escapism is a form of entertainment separate from art. Absolutely this can be one of the goals of writing, and is the approach for many, (for most who want successful and wide-spread consumption of their art, I think in many cases the art needs to be in some way entertaining and escape-worthy). But I wonder about the philanthropy of that artistic side: the one that changes people, changes the world, and challenges the norms, which is a process that isn’t necessarily enjoyable, or one people want to escape into. 

This can be political or dramatic or religious. In whatever it is that’s so sufferable about this world that we want to escape from, good art, I think, should address those exact same things.

Perhaps it’s just the desire to change the world, even if that change is violent, that makes something philanthropic.

But it’s interesting that you bring your metaphor to drugs, and I want to address that too. If my writing is essentially crack, and I’m also a philanthropist by supplying your escape, could not the same be said of drug dealers? Pornographers? Exotic dancers? Action movie directors? Athletes?

Perhaps there is no easy answer, but I like to challenge everything, and this was the direction my thoughts went. Thanks for the comment Robynn, and thanks for letting me use you as a part of the conversation. Floor is yours now, guys. Discuss?

Philanthropic Art

So in California two (three?) weeks ago, I was having a discussion with a wonderful gentleman about philanthropy and art. Chris McCune walks into the room and points out something about what a philanthropist I am. My knee jerk reaction is that I’m not. I think a lot of people in the world today are idiots and I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that charity work doesn’t make me feel wholesome. Chris shook his head and said, “naw man, you’re a writer–you’re a philanthropist.”

And I had to chew on this for a while. Because I’m not sure he’s wrong. But I’m not sure he’s right either.

I write because I’m thinking, and I have stories that come together, and I’d like to put them down permanently and exercise those stories.

The next level is SHARING what I’m writing, and that is distinct from the writing itself. Why do I share what I write? I share what I write because I want to produce ART.

What then is ART? There’s a quote that I’ve been trying to find, but for the life of me cannot (if anyone can help, that’d be wonderful). But the quote goes something along the lines of the purpose of art being to “settle those unsettled and unsettle those settled.” And I quite take to this. There’s another quote by Georges Braque, “Art disturbs, science reassures.” I like this idea of art being challenging, moving, disturbing, unsettling. It’s part of the reason I’m so taken with the horror genre. There is real art that can be done within.

Now the question then is whether or not THAT is something that helps people: whether or not the purpose of ART, if that’s one way to define it, as disturbing, is helpful? Because that can have very negative results. You unsettle someone and they might jump off a bridge.

So the question remains whether or not the act of SHARING a piece of ART is inherently philanthropic.

What do you think?

 

Edit to add:

Manifesto

Keeping with the slew of Hallowtide release announcements and excerpts, I wanted to give you guys some insight as to the release process, what it’s going to look like, and why I’m choosing to do what I’m doing.

On October 1, when Hallowtide officially drops online, it won’t be released through a traditional publisher. Right now, this is generally looked upon by those in the publishing/writing world as cheating. That it’s for hacks who couldn’t cut it the traditional route (querying agents and editors until someone takes a chance on your novel, getting polished, then presented–likely with little fanfare for a new author, and eventually, after releasing enough books, you might have one that finally breaks into the popular market).

And for the most part, this is accurate. Most people who go the traditional route do so because their writing is terrible, or because they have enough followers that they think they can sell without the backing of the traditional approach. These days though, many solid, established authors are switching to indie publishing because it’s easy, cheap, and affords writers a greater cut of the profits.

See, in this digital age, eBooks are consuming a huge chunk of the market, and they cost very little to make (it’s an e-file, there are no printing or shipping costs). The only real cost for publishers is for editing and marketing (and these days, with the internet, most authors are able to reach out to followers and maintain their fan-base themselves). And so, with the right price and royalty balance, many authors are making a killing in the digital market.

Digital and print-on demand publishing is the future of publishing. Print-on demand publishing is when the printer, instead of printing bulk orders for a publisher (which is a bit of a crapshoot, demanding guesswork on how much will sell), takes an order for a book, prints it, then ships it out to the reader immediately. Because it’s not bulk, the print costs are higher, but at the same time, if it cuts out the traditional publisher, per-book royalties are still significantly higher for the author. Kindles and eReaders are cropping up everywhere. Any way to get books into reader’s hands faster and more efficiently will be the future. Writers don’t need the big publishing houses in order to get their work out there.

Traditionally, the goal as a writer has been to “get published.” But this has become a loaded term. My goal as a writer is to get my work, good work, to readers and be able to live off of it. And in today’s changing market, this doesn’t need to carry the implications of traditional publishing.

So, in order to make a living off of my writing, there comes with it the added pressure of doing good work; of writing books that people want to buy and read. This means I can’t half-ass it. This calls for serious editing before publication. If I’m going to ask those fans I’ve already gathered to pay me for my work, it’s important to me that it’s not filled with spelling errors, grammatical problems, and sentences that get lost as they get longer.

While publishing houses carry the best editors for both development and copy-editing, I’m lucky enough to have a number of savvy editors on my side that have been doing a fantastic job with my book since the start of the summer.

Will it be absolutely as good as if I went through a traditional publishing house? Probably not. Years of experience will always yield better results, and I don’t pretend that I’m dictating God’s own perfect novel (well, actually, I do pretend that sometimes, but it keeps the crippling insecurities at bay). But the novel that I’m giving you will be the absolute best I can make it.

Publishing houses also get your books into bookstores. They generally do this by putting your book in a catalog, and the bookstores order a number of copies of the books in this catalog. Front of the catalog books are the rockstars, Stephen Kings and whatnot. Middle are solid. And back of the catalog are the books that aren’t being pushed, and probably won’t be ordered to be held in stores. As far as I can tell right now, I should be in this catalog by self-publishing as well. But in not having a big publishing house backer, I won’t be picked up for stores. You can order in stores, but it won’t be on the shelf. But this is the risk I run as a new author anyway. Unless I write the new Fifty Shades of Twilight, or whatever’s hot these days, I’m not likely to be front catalog at all. And middle could even be a stretch if the publishing house is wary about the book.

Because literature is subjective. As is the publishing process. What works for some people doesn’t work for others. When an editor takes a risk on a book and calls it up for publication, that’s one person’s opinion. Usually it’s solid and carries years of experience behind it and collaboration with other smart people. But the market is fickle, and hundreds of thousands of authors want to break through, many with incredible books, who don’t.

So I’m making this push for a new marketplace. Much the same as music ten years before, thanks to iTunes and the advent of digital music downloading, the music industry has given rise to thousands of indie bands trying to get their shot at stardom. The good ones rise, the bad ones sink. And then, after putting out their best work, sometimes big labels will pick them up and turn out something often even more solid. (Or, in many cases, the band can gain a significant following and then crowd-source an album, getting the best artistic minds to collaborate, cutting out the industry middleman entirely). Though many in industry are fantastic artists, there’s a misunderstanding that they are the only good artists in the business.

So, could I go the traditional route, take the novel that I have here on my computer, edited, polished, the best I have to offer, and begin to market it to agents, hoping that someone will take a chance on me? Absolutely. I know that eventually, it would get picked up and sell. I believe in the work.

But I want to be a part of the new movement. It’s not because I’m impatient.

Look, see? Here’s a picture of me being all patient-like.

It’s because I want to take advantage of my fan-base and the changing market. I want to take advantage of the internet, and be a part of something scary, something new, something that could crumble below me and make these seven years for naught.

I think I’ve got a book that’s a quality product. Now does that make me different than any of the other authors that are self publishing right now, who aren’t any good at it? No. We all think our books have what it takes. But what I do have is seven years of work, an artistic eye, technical skills, and the editing resources to make this a product that I’m proud of, that I think will compete in the market. Whether or not that is the case is up to you guys in two weeks.

And by then, I’ll have done everything I could to make this novel shine.

I think it does. This book has been with me for the past seven years. It exploded this past winter on a rewrite and came alive in a way that I never expected. Within, it does deeply harrowing work. It’s the story of a young man who travels to Hell by night in his dreams. But it’s also a beautiful work. It’s a love story at it’s most pure, and that love is below every word on every page, even when it seems to be as far away as it could be. But in the way that we know the night by knowing the day, even as the story is at its most dark, we only know it because of the depths of love just beyond that inky veil. I wanted the novel to capture this pairing, to move you, to make you think, and challenge you. I think it does. But will you?

The experience will be in your hands to start October. It will be available on Amazon in hardcopy for 16 dollars. It will also be available on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes for 2.99. If there’s demand and support, I might try to get an audio copy out by Christmas.

If you like it, that’s where the buck is passed to you. To write a review on Amazon. To have your friends buy a copy. To pirate an eCopy and try it out. To tell anyone you can. Start the conversation. Spread. Be a part of the future.

And then, if it’s good enough, we’ll see what happens.

Let’s Light This Candle

Blogosphere! Twitterverse! Clever internet word for group of people I’m talking to!

Had a question on Facebook earlier today I wanted to answer in case any of you were wondering the same. But first, updates: I’ll be going to California later this week for a good buddy’s wedding. His name is Chris Mccune. You might remember him from Academy. He’s a badass and I wish he had a fanpage for you all to wish him well. But if you want to leave a comment to let him know, I’ll be happy to pass them along.

We only take serious photos together. Pictures are not a time for goofing off. That’s how kittehs die.

 

Then travel will take me to Lexington, Kentucky for SCAREFEST at the end of the month, where I’ll launch my book early for those attending, and stage the official launch for the rest of the world over the internet on the following Monday, October 1st. If you’re interested in going to SCAREFEST, you can find more at www.thescarefest.com. Then in October, I’ll be attending a special Halloween event at the University of Wyoming, where I’ll also be selling and signing copies of the book. More information on that event will be out as it becomes available. Other possible events are lining up throughout the next few months as well.

The question was posed though as to how to get me out to YOUR state for a signing or event. The thing is that it always comes down to money, which sucks, but that’s how it is. I’m a starving artist hoping this book will blow up enough to let me get an apartment again (preferably in a rainy, foggy section of country). And so, to go to an event, I need to get my travel paid for. But I can’t do it myself. If I did do it myself, my return would have to cover the costs, if just to break even. But that  would mean selling a couple hundred copies of my book or photos or whatever at the event. Or, if the event itself brought me out, they would have to bank that my name will bring enough ticket sales to cover my costs. At this point, I’m not really there yet. My fifteen minutes was up two years ago.

So how then, do we fix this? We make me explode. Not Doc Manhattan style (though that would solve the whole trouble with plane ticket cost), but in terms of my status. Which means this book needs to explode. So, if you want me to be able to tour or hit up these events across the country, spread the word. When the book comes out, if it sounds good, pick up a copy, write a review on amazon (even if you hated it, honest feedback is good feedback), tell your friends about it, start the conversation, pirate it (I don’t care, I’d rather it spread right now), show them pictures of Ryan Gosling and tell them that it’s actually me, paraphrase most interesting man in the world commercials when speaking of my experience. Stir the pot.

That’s how we do this thing. I’m working my end for you, trying to make this novel absolutely as good as it can be, so that it can rock your world when it’s finally out. The rest is you guys.

Immortality Project

By now I hope you’ve heard about the upcoming Immortality Project. It’s not a movie with a catchy name, but it’s the new project the University of California, Riverside will take on studying topics of the afterlife thanks to a five million dollar grant. If you haven’t read about it, there’s a solid article from Huffington Post LA, here.

The money will fund research into heaven, hell, purgatory, karma, and other topics, according to the university’s web site.

Which is brilliant. If you’re going to do a study of the afterlife, absolutely do it academically. We in the ghost-hunting field have been pushing for “scientific” documentation of these experiences of the supernatural, which is still needed. But taking an approach to the afterlife in general on a level of theology, culture, philosophy, and biology is a solid approach. If you’re going to explore the afterlife, regardless of conclusion, there are questions that need exploring along the way. “Are we immortal beings? Would we even want to be immortal? What would immortality even look like?” An approach that considers both the fact of the issue and the philosophy is absolutely the right thinking.

“We will be very careful in documenting near-death experiences and other phenomena, trying to figure out if these offer plausible glimpses of an afterlife or are biologically induced illusions,” Fischer said in a statement. “Our approach will be uncompromisingly scientifically rigorous. We’re not going to spend money to study alien-abduction reports.”

So not all the bias toward the supernatural has been thrown out with this step forward. All in due time I suppose. Alien abductions might not be trendy like ghosts or the more PC, less-restrictive term, “the afterlife,” and their supporters still seem crazy (really, the same as ghosts fifteen years ago). But the deeper you look into alien abduction reports, the more similarities you find between them and “Old Hag Syndrome,” or sleep paralysis, or classical mythology and religions. Indeed, alien reports carry remarkable tie-ins with much of religious mythology and lore. John Keel’s Our Haunted Planet is a fine resource for these connections and, according to him, inconsistencies.

Though not so much correlative to the near-death experience, close encounters of the fourth kind do resemble religious or mystical experiences. Though this study is focusing, at least for the moment, on experiences occurring around the time of death, it’s not a far stone’s throw to the mystical experiences of higher (or different) consciousness. See (bright lights appearing in the sky, terrifying beings who appear on earth and supply prophesies, strange chariots appearing in the air).

The question then: is this exactly what we need right now? Not just the “we” who are paranormally inclined. But the “we” of the human race, in a science-worshipping world tearing itself apart over religion and ideology.

Or will this divide us further? If we find indication that there may be something after, something further, will this only increase the hostilities between two parties to be more “right” than the other? If you suggest that the soul does exist, what does that say of God? If God exists, what does that say of these fighting religions? If we live on after we die, what does that say toward the morality of homicide?

Either way, it’s a fascinating project, and I’ll be first in line for the book in five years.

 

Absurdity

You begin with rejecting materialism, that fundamental staple of the West. Americana. You’ve survived if you could buy a home and support a family. You’ve thrived if you could buy nice things for them and for yourself. Wealth has become the yardstick of our society.

And you define the ridiculousness of such a yardstick. It’s only stuff. These books are only slices of trees and ink. Your clothes are woven threads. Your car only metal and gasoline. That we cling to these things, that we hold them above all else, is meaningless. Your house burns down. You’ve lost four walls, however shiny or complex. You’ve lost the stuff within. You remain. You are still alive and so you’ve thrived.

But reducto ad absurdum. Wander the outdoors and find stimulation in the running of wild animals. The world around us is just as arbitrary. Trees are only wooden sprouts. Grass is only a weed. These elements and objects, however fundamental, have only as much meaning as we supply. Are they so different from your flashy car and tailored clothes?

If meaning is only so where we attach it, we can only combat the absurd, the nihilism, the meaningless, with the challenge of putting good meaning to those things we hold close.

If we’re going to worship, choose. And then create. And in what you create, hold close, find a resonance. And know that the value of such creation is not within the object itself. So burn your words and wipe away the art in your sand and shed no tears when they’re gone.