The Shared Diary of a Novice Paranormal Investigator, aged 52 and Three Quar

When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.

(Stevie Wonder)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamed of in your philosophy.


Ri fol ri fol tol de riddle dee.


The Paranormal, the Beliefs, the Google

Finding out what Mrs other Couple was talking about means time for more google and more reading. 

Most of Mrs OC’s stories are grounded in beliefs associated with Spiritualism; a movement which developed in the USA during the mid nineteenth century.  Of course, stories about human beings passing the time of day with mysterious entities show up any time, any place, anywhere, and the early Spiritualists were themselves building on the ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg, who, in turn, appears to have been influenced by all kinds of things.  

What marks Mrs OC’s experiences as part of a Spiritualist tradition is the belief that the dead have still got tasks to do, or life lessons to learn and that they will communicate with the living.  It is that same tradition which is informing popular activities in some circles.  Knocking on tables, moving glasses around tables and tilting tables all stem from that same beginning, during the dark days before Trivial Pursuit was available, to keep us occupied after dinner.

Spiritualism is connected to Christianity, and it has features and practices familiar to Christians.  A highly significant difference is that instead of being directed to heaven or to hell, the souls of the departed are sent to a place of learning, where they are expected to improve themselves before they move on.  These souls can be contacted by the living.  Sometimes, souls (or ‘spirits’) advise or guide the living.  Some living people have particular talents which enable them to communicate with spirits.  They may have a spirit guide who helps them in this work.  These are the features of Spiritualism which I have met when poking about the paranormal websites and talking to Mrs OC.

Other aspects of Spiritualism are worthy of respect.  Among the seven principles which form the movement’s bedrock are solid values of personal responsibility.  Not quite such a thrill as a message from dead Uncle Egbert, but probably much more useful to the Human Race.  This, then, is what the real Spiritualists are on about:

1.      The fatherhood of God: (nothing new here)
The spiritualist God is the same all powerful, but benign father figure met in most mainstream versions of Christianity.  They believe he created the universe and has a divine plan and divine laws which we, his children, obey.
2.       The brotherhood of man: (also familiar)
Because they believe God is our father, they also believe we are all brothers and sisters and therefore we have a duty of service or care towards each other.  

3.      Communion of the spirits and the ministry of angels: (possibly a little more controversial, this one)
We survive death and continue to communicate with the living through mediums.  We each have a spirit guide or guardian angel who helps us.

  1. Continuous existence of the human soul:
The way we live now determines the next step for us after death.

  1.  Personal responsibility: (If you are near a Christian, duck now)
Jesus did not save us by his death.  We have knowledge of right and wrong and we have free will.  We have to choose correct actions and take responsibility for the consequences.  God will not judge us, we will judge ourselves.
  1.  Compensation and retribution hereafter for all good and evil deeds done on earth:
    The way we conduct our lives on earth determines what our state will be when we die and move to the next world.
7.      Eternal progress is open to every human soul:
Each human is on a quest to achieve spiritual perfection in this world and the next.

Those are the bones of Spiritualism, a religion as worthy as any other, I feel.  We had not really been expecting, as we stepped in to that party, to meet a new religion.  Nice as they are, I like my religions clearly labelled.
Mrs OC’s stories drew on at least one other belief system.  Attacked by an elemental.  Four elements.  Those ideas are also worth a poke or two.  I am not sure how many elements there are, but I am certain there are more than four, especially because I know people keep inventing new ones.  Time for a refresher visit to ‘O’ level Chemistry.  Never did like it, but, in for a penny…

 Chemistry Land provides us with this information:

Just as electromagnetic waves are arranged in a display like birthday cards on a mantelpiece, elements are neatly arranged on an imaginary table, each one carefully labelled with numbers, the significance of which is not easy to understand but, I am relieved to say, is neither interesting nor important right now.  It looks a bit like this, but much more complicated:

Elements most of us have heard of.

  salt vinegar chips
Old fashioned Elements which we all know about, like Any Old Iron.
All kinds of outlandish things.  Elements discovered by people who then name them after their aunties.
Dorisite, Susanite.
Noble gasses.

We cannot be expected to take this seriously.

Aragorn, Eragon
(pay your money and take your choice)
The Periodic Table of the Elements,
a personal view.

Many, many more than four elements here.

The belief in four physical elements dates back to long before we had that handy table.  Hundreds of years ago, scientific thought was not divorced from religious dogma or philosophical inquiry.  ‘Facts’ about the natural world would be given credence if they conformed to existing ideas about the world and its relationship with God.   In this country, early scientists were influenced by the Greek version of the elements – fire, water, earth and air.  Because science was woven in with other spheres of human thought, the four elements also seeped in to other areas of activity.  You find them in poetry and art, for example.   As the body of scientific knowledge grew and developed over the centuries, the four elements moved aside to make way for a more complex picture.  They remained solidly in areas which draw their wisdom or inspiration from the past.  So now, if you read a book on astrology then you will certainly find representations of those same four elements, coupled with notions of how they might interact and what influence they may have. 

Mrs OC’s aggressive elemental has its intellectual roots in the 16th century, when thinkers were still influenced by the four elements.  Paracelsus was one of those strange hybrid characters who explored the physical and the metaphysical world before the start of what we know as empirical science.  Part philosopher, part scientist, part occultist – his world was so different from ours that we have not got a word to describe him.  Paracelsus classified nature spirits from folklore into four groups, corresponding to the four elements.  A similar classification and listing was made by another famous hybrid, Agrippa.  The notion that there are four kinds of elemental spirits grew from those lists.  A trawl through some of the more imaginative internet sites quickly shows how many people today still use the ideas of these two thinkers, hoping to find some truth there.

 How many people using these 16th century constructs know where their information came from, and what systems of belief produced it.  How many paranormal clubbers know when they are operating within the belief system of Spiritualism.  Not many, I am sure.  I love this stuff, and I only found out about it yesterday.

So, where does that leave my thoughts and feelings?  Without having any solid facts, or spending any time on sensible reasoning, I am going ahead to believe in the elementals, but I am holding on the spirits.  I will never have any way of knowing or understanding what Mrs OC’s experiences were, so I am following a gut reaction.  My gut has a thing about elements and the open air.

Walking is, I understand, just about the most popular pastime in this country.  According to the statistics, it is right up there with dangling your rod in the canal, and the equipment is much cheaper.  I have walked all my life.  In company, alone – I do not really care.  I have always had a need to tramp about, preferably high up.  I know lots of others who feel the same.  I also know I am not alone when I say I feel an atmosphere in some places.  I do not just mean stone circles or barrows, either.  I mean otherwise unremarkable bits of path, little streams, groups of trees or outcrops of stone which, for no reason I can discern, seem to pack a punch.  That is why I imagine that there could be something there.  Possibly not a little gnome in a hat, or a winged girl in a frilly frock; but something else I do not understand right now.  I suspect that the notion of elementals may be a metaphor which helps us to think about or talk about that specific kind of experience, and perhaps some kinds of local folklore come about as part of the same process.  So that is why my next poke about will be an outdoor one.  I will go looking for elementals

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