23 November 2019

A UNIVERSE OF GHOSTS

Paul Eno, Dancing Past the Graveyard: Poltergeists, Parasites, Parallel Worlds and God. Schiffer Books 2019.

Paul Eno is a former seminary student turned paranormal investigator. He trained for the Roman Catholic priesthood at seminaries in Bloomfield, Connecticut, and Ogdensburg, New York. Converting to Eastern Orthodoxy, he began studying at an Orthodox Seminary in New York City. He was already fascinated by ghosts and the afterlife, and the theological questions they raised while at the Roman Catholic seminaries. It was then he became involved with the so-called grandfather and grandmother of ghost hunting, Ed and Lorraine Warren. His interest was frowned upon by the seminary authorities, but he was mentored by Fr. John J. Nicola, a Jesuit priest and expert on exorcism, who was technical adviser on The Exorcist

The exorcist for his local diocese, Fr. Lawrence Wheeler, also took him under his wing, and he became his unofficial assistant. However, his interests resulted in his expulsion from the Orthodox seminary, and he subsequently pursued a career as a journalist on various New England papers, as well as Fate. He corresponded with Dr. Louisa Rhine, the wife of the pioneering American parapsychologist Dr. Joseph Rhine of Duke University, and has written books or contributed articles with Brad Steiger, Timothy Green Beckley and Nandor Fodor, amongst others. With his son, Ben, he has also been presenting a show on the paranormal on local radio in the Boston area.

The book describes some of the most influential or notable cases in his career as a paranormal investigator and how these resulted in his abandonment of mainstream Christianity and the development of his New Age beliefs. This begins with him helping Fr. Wheeler in the exorcism of a disturbed 17 year old girl, 'Barbara', at the local mental hospital in Ogdensburg. This in turn leads to a discussion of his views of such possessing entities. Contrary to Roman Catholic and general Christian doctrine, these are not demons, but extra-dimensional parasites, but plasma creatures from elsewhere in the multiverse. These creatures are ancient, and attach themselves to troubled individuals in order to feed on their negative emotions like hate and fear.

Further encounters with 'Gilbert', another supposed spirit in the same hospital, and 'Bob', an entity haunting the attic of two Orthodox New Yorkers, convince him that ghosts also aren't disembodied spirits either, but flesh and blood people in parallel universes. Eno establishes mental contact with Gilbert and comes to the conclusion that Gilbert is really a man waiting to meet his wife at the train station in Prescott, Ontario in a parallel world. Contacting 'Bob' the same way, he hears that he remembers a plane crash and then subsequently waking up in an Episcopalian church with no idea how he got there. In further sessions the spirit states that he hasn't flown for years, and is the vicar of the church waiting for choir practice.

Eno believes that everyone has a counterpart in the different parallel worlds, separated from ours by interdimensional branes. These worlds may be our past or future, but the people in them are flesh and blood. When we die, our consciousness passes into one of these other versions of ourselves. Contact with these parallel worlds produces ghost experiences, though the people in these worlds also perceive us as ghosts. We are subconsciously connected to all the other versions of ourselves throughout the multiverse in a relationship he describes as 'superlife'. We are also all connected with each other. A man, who underwent open heart surgery, describes how he found himself in one of the nurses attending the operation, then the surgeon and a passerby in the corridor outside. 'Meg' tells him how she finds herself transported into the bodies of other people and even animals when she sits on a particular chair in the room she and her husband use as their home theatre. One of these animals was a creature flying through the sky in a parallel world.

Some hauntings are the result of tragedy in a particular place. These may be in the past, but could also be in a parallel world or even the future. At the same time, events in the past may be the cause of poltergeist activity in the present as the objects being moved are also being moved at the same time in a different brane containing our past. Called in to investigate poltergeist activity in a school, he and a terrified principal witness a moving chair and other activity and the sound of thumps on the blackboard. He puts this down to the extra-dimensional presence of a female teacher, who was killed in a traffic accident in 1922. The lady was devoted to the school and her job, and so Eno interprets the poltergeist activity as a result of this lady's actions in the classroom while still alive in 1920 or thereabouts, just beyond the divide between our universe and the other.

Eno follows Jacques Vallee and John Keel in believing that ghosts and demons are part of the same phenomenon that produces UFOs. Several of the people he meets, such as 'Barbara', have seen UFOs and little grey aliens around their bed at night. There are also areas around the world that are particularly rich in paranormal activity. These include Point Pleasant and the Mothman in the Ohio river valley, and Rendlesham Forest and its UFO encounter in Britain. Walking through Exmoor in Devon, he sees a vision of a fur clad, cloaked figure in Wistman's Wood, which he believes could have been a druid or a figure from a remote, far future. He notes that many of these areas are near military bases, and wonders if the army isn't actually researching the phenomena there in order to weaponise it.


As for the Almighty, Eno believes in a trinity, but one of Father, Mother and Son, corresponding to the high gods and their consorts found amongst ancient peoples like the Bushmen, Aboriginal Australians and, so he believes, the ancient Sumerians. He also cites the fact that the Holy Spirit in the Bible is feminine, Chokma in Hebrew, and Sophia in ancient Greek. The problem of evil is explained by the parasites impersonating the different gods throughout history in order to create wars and the suffering on which they feed. But there will be an end to this. God also represents the fundamental unity of all things. The different parallel worlds are already beginning to come together and merge. This will continue until they have all become one, as considered in Buddhism and the Baha'i faith, and the Omega Point and Cosmic Christ in the theology of Teilhard de Chardin.

Eno believes that ghosts are really physical beings as a way of getting round the old problem of how immaterial spirits can be seen, wear clothes and affect matter. And there are personal reasons for his interest in the question of the afterlife and the existence of heaven and hell. His father committed suicide when Eno was a child. Eno found him in his car, but ran into the house. He wonders if he could have saved his father by opening the door, or whether his father would have pulled him in with him. Following his older brother into the priesthood, Eno was troubled by the church's teaching on suicide and punishment in the afterlife. Roman Catholic theology stated that his father would have to spend a long time in purgatory as a punishment for taking his own life. He naturally wonders why that should be, as his father was a gentle, loving man, and was clearly deeply tormented, not evil. 

The demon he encounters possessing 'Barbara' also claims to have been culpable for his father's death. Eno found little in the Roman Catholic church at the time which could help him. Even the editor of the Catholic Encyclopedia could not provide the answers he needed. At the same time, the Vatican II conferences initiated by Pope John XXIII had created uncertainty and confusion in the Church. The Pope had wanted to open windows so that fresh air could be let in. But this also resulted in the questioning of fundamental Roman Catholic doctrines and practices.

Eno's search for answers was hampered by the extremely limited resources available at that time in the early '70s. Ghost hunting was still very much in its infancy, a fringe activity pursued by a small number of people that aroused far more disapproval than interest. He criticises the Roman Catholic theology of the afterlife as static. At the time, ghosts were seen as exclusively demons. He, on the other hand, believed that some could be souls in purgatory. Historically, that was how the Roman Catholic church approached some hauntings, in contrast to the Protestant denominations, which did believe they were demons; see Keith Thomas' Religion and the Decline of Magic. And the questions that puzzled him are extremely difficult. Philosophers and theologians have been wrestling with questions like the existence of the soul and how an immaterial mind relates to its material body for centuries, even millennia.

There are also problems with his proposed solution involving the multiverse. Despite wide interest, it's still very much conjecture, not settled science. It may also be impossible to travel to such parallel universes or prove they exist. There are also major questions about the possibility that parallel universes may be able to meet or overlap. If this were possible, it might explain the time slips some people have experienced. This is when people have witnessed, or believed they've witnessed, a scene from the past played out in front of them. Some have even believed that the people they saw also saw them, very much like some of the encounters Eno describes and investigates. But scientists have also suggested that if two universes actually bumped into each other, the result would be devastation on a truly cosmic scale. A few years ago astronomers were investigating some of the immense voids that exist in intergalactic space as evidence of these collisions. So far, the voids examined have proved entirely natural.

Some of his other ideas also remind me of Science Fiction. Other people, who have encountered what they believe to be malign supernatural entities, have also said that they felt that the creatures were feeding off their negative emotions, like Eno's parasites. It's an idea explored in the ITV SF series, Sapphire and Steel. In the second story of the series, the two time agents were investigating a disused railway station.


Some scientists have suggested that plasma creatures could exist in parallel worlds with very different physical laws. The British-New Zealand biologist Michael J. Denton considers this highly improbably, however. In his Nature's Design he points out that no-one has put forward detailed descriptions of how such creatures could exist and his book is intended to show that no other forms of life except those following established terrestrial biology is possible under the known physical laws. This is itself controversial, as he was one of the influences behind the Intelligent Design movement with his 1980s book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, and this succeeding book is based upon Christian apologetic works published in the 1920s.

Like the New Age generally, Eno is receptive to indigenous cultures' spirituality. He also has a First Nation medicine stick, which he sometimes uses, and his friends and co-workers include Shane Sirois, a Blackfoot shaman. On the more sceptical side, his team also includes a photographic expert, Eric Baillargeon, whom he describes as the only one more sceptical than he was. Eno also uses science in his research. He believes that ghost encounters and contact with parallel worlds occur in waterlogged, clay soil, and so has a hydrologist on his team. He is aware of Vic Tandy's experience with infrasound at Coventry University, and believes some ghost experiences may be down to this. 

He also accepts that some orbs may be just the products of cameras picking up dust motes, flying insects and so on, but also thinks that some may also be real spirit entities. The book is filled with photographs he's taken of some of the mysterious things he's seen. These include orbs, weird streaks of light or something else around people. There is even what looks like a face peering from an empty window, though this may also be an instance of the mind seeing something that isn't there.

There are also problems with confirming some of the information he himself supposedly receives through his own psychic powers. Eno believes he has psychic gifts, and it is through psychic contact that he hears 'Gilbert' and 'Bob', as well as a number of other extra-dimensional entities, for example. He is also critical of the belief that ghosts haunt particular locations because they're the scenes of their death. He himself, however, believes that certain places are haunted because something terrible has happened there, either in the past, the future or in a parallel universe. Of the last two possibilities, one is difficult and the other impossible to confirm. And as purely subjective experiences they have no more objective validity than the pronouncements of some of the mediums that feature in the book.

As for the presence of army bases near flap areas, this might partly be due to the fact that military bases and other sensitive installations are commonly situated in sparsely populated areas. The UFO encounter in Rendlesham Forest may also have been no such thing. Magonia suggested that it could have been a deliberate hoax designed to identify those with loose lips among the squaddies. Other theories include the possibility that it was devised by the military to divert attention away from the fact that one of the bases was carrying cruise nuclear missiles, in contravention of existing law. And some of the UFO and entity encounters look like simple cases of sleep paralysis and hypnogogia. He also warns of the dangers in exorcism, and the mental and physical harm, even death that can result. This is reassuringly responsible, as people have died through brutal treatment at the hands of those, who genuinely believed that they were liberating them from evil spirits.

This is at heart the story of one man's journey from orthodox Roman Catholicism to the New Age in search of answers about the afterlife. Eno is clearly deeply spiritual. Despite leaving the church, he still maintains a rule of prayer and encourages those, whose homes he investigates to pray as well. He has developed an original perspective on psychic phenomena, which however runs against the laws of physics as they are presently understood. That does not mean that he's wrong and that evidence to support some of his views on the multiverse won't be found in the future. But he also shows how some people are looking to science for answers to essentially religious questions, and hope for a worldview that combines both in a positive and satisfying whole. And even if his cosmological views are wrong, he is still right to stress a positive attitude, happiness and love for one's fellow creatures. -- David Sivier


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