I have experienced anomalous phenomena – both physical (outside my mind) and psychical (inside my mind), for as long as I can remember. As a child I just knew things — a beyond my years sort of knowing. I knew that “there is more ‘there’ there”.
At four, I was aware of an unseen presence in our home. No one else seemed to notice, at least not initially. This was the first of many spontaneous and baffling occurrences. These events presented in myriad form: a felt-presence or clairsentience; visible apparitions; unusual energy manifestations; clear-knowing; pre-cognition; clairvoyance; information downloads (in dream consciousness); lucid dreaming; synchronicities with meaningful correspondences; contact with the incorporeal.
there’s more “there” there—
flashy & pronounced, nuanced & noetic
For me, these phenomena fall into two categories. The first is flashy and pronounced— unmistakable and compelling. The second is more nuanced and noetic—barely noticeable and quietly compelling. In either of these situations, my mind opens to the details, and I track in-forming potentials in search of meaning. Tracking meaning is not always immediate. Some encounters have taken months or even years to figure out.
Of all my experiences, there are several standouts in terms of influencing the trajectory of my life. They were penultimate by comparison to the happenings that came before them, and they provided a framework, or ecosystem, for my understanding to grow and evolve.
two standout anomalous experiences
I was twenty years old when my boyfriend, who was twenty-three, suffered a stroke and died when surgery failed to repair a brain aneurysm. His death was tragic and sudden and incredibly destabilizing. A small group of family and friends gathered to scatter his ashes at sea. We piled into his commercial fishing boat the Sister Alice and headed out to the Coast Guard buoy that marks the entrance to Block Island Sound. We traveled through an early morning mist as we made our way to the mark.
As we circled the buoy a cylinder of light cut through the fog illuminating the buoy—only the buoy. There were no other beams of sunlight breaking through the clouds anywhere; only this single shaft, with its exact placement, sharply contained scope, and unwavering beam. It was beyond belief. We marveled at the timing and location of this shaft of light. The ceremony proceeded with an luminescent beam of light focusing our attention, and as we turned to head back to harbor, the shaft of light seemed to retract back into the clouds. The Sister Alice was enveloped in a dense fog for her trip home.
wild imagination = doubt, inquiry, belief
The most astounding aspect of this event was that it was a shared event. Commonly, I was sole witness to this sort of phenomenon. I had a “wild imagination,” so I rarely attempted to explain my encounters. In this rare instance, a boat full of friends witnessed it. More importantly, my father, who accompanied me on the trip, saw it too.
This shared experience with my dad liberated me. It did not matter what he thought about the phenomenon, or what it represented to him. What mattered was he saw it, and he did not try to explain it away. He recognized it as extraordinary. We did not discuss the topic any further beyond this singular shared acknowledgment.
This marked a transition for me. It made engaging with the anomalous less dangerous. Maybe the inexplicable does exist outside of my imagination. Thus began my pursuit of all things mysterious, liminal, numinous, otherworldly, awe-inspiring, and otherwise transcendent.
The second event occurred twenty-five years later. I was studying in Chartres France as part of my doctoral coursework on the Seven Liberal Arts. This was my fifth visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, and my tenth or twelfth labyrinth walk in the cathedral. This evening’s private walk was no different (actually every time you walk the labyrinth the experience is different), but there was a familiar ease while moving through the eleven-circuits, until I reached its center. That is when my experience intensified.
there is more “there” there—
a confusing appearance
My legs suddenly felt weak, and my knees started to buckle. As I sensed my body “evaporating”, my vision narrowed and blurred. My thinking became hyper-focused. This sensation is similar to explanations of out-of-body experiences—your physical surrounds fall away and your mind becomes hyper-focused somewhere else. This is when I noticed what looked to be the figure of Jesus standing on the labyrinth. His physical appearance confused me because he appeared so feminine — almost as if he was morphing between a He and a She.
As I was trying to sort this out, my attention shifted to a voice coming from the rafters of the cathedral. The words seemed to be spoken directly into my left ear saying, “Feed the children”. In that instant, I felt my breastmilk let-down. This would not be an unusual sensation if I was nursing, but I had not nursed a baby in ten years. This let-down reflex is an unmistakable physical sensation, and the shock of it rocketed me back into my body.
Suddenly I found myself firm footed in the middle of the labyrinth. My legs were strong and solid beneath me. My shirt bore no trace of breastmilk. There were no signs of anything unusual. No one walking the labyrinth seemed to notice my unstable posture. There was no marveling at the presence of any anomalous phenomena, and there was no voice emanating from the rafters. This was a profoundly solitary experience.
It is interesting that both these events had such strong Christian imagery. The conditions of my Roman Catholic upbringing did not foster allegiance to dogmatic theology or propositional truth. But these pivotal experiences were iridescent on so many levels. My religious education alluded to these sorts of experiences, but they were most certainly not accessible to my less-than-saintly self. Maybe this “less-than-saintly” belief accentuates the point. I am no more special then the next guy, so the way I figure it, we all have access and we all are capable of understanding what the numinous means as it applies to us individually. And it is not just figuring out the meaning—more important, is figuring out what to do with the new understanding…in the service of our humanity.
can doubt co-exist with inquiry?
I often wonder about the trajectory of my life and career if my experiences with the anomalous were met with curiosity rather than resistance. I understand this is a product of our time, but that doesn’t make it any less disheartening. The antagonism (scientific and psychological) I encountered seemed short sighted and irrational to me, and it made me fearful about my physical reality and psychical stability.
What if, rather than being off-kilter or delusional, I was merely quirky and open. Perhaps these perceptive/receptive qualities, or abilities, are an in-born capacity to “read the Field” — and kudos to me for endeavoring! What if doubt was allowed to co-exist with inquiry rather than antagonize it. I certainly would have been more adventurous in my life choices. I do believe this short-sighted disposition is changing. Our consciousness is expanding, and are minds are acclimating to the change.
I am grateful to all the extra-ordinary storytellers who bravely revealed their experiences with the anomalous. Their forthright accounts tamed my fears, appeased my doubts, nurtured my inquiry, and fueled my quest to locate my Self in the midst of the numinous. It has taken sixty years for me to become one of those brave, extra-ordinary storytellers. Now, I can honestly and confidently state: There is more “there” there.