Sunday, July 7, 2013

Victorian Ghost Hunter Shows Me the Spiral Castle

"Go up on the mountain," said an inner voice I have come to know as I lay under the sheet, preparing to let my body sleep. "Meet me there."
    I knew that voice, and smiled because it echoed something my dream double had said recently to a friend in a green valley, far away. He told her that he could not spend time with her because he had to go up on a mountain to meet his elder brother, who had sent him a message that he wanted to share an important secret. I have no brothers in ordinary life. I suspect that my elder brother on the mountain, in my friend's dream, is a second self who lives just above my world, able to read patterns that escape me. I often think of him as my Double on the Balcony.
    So around 2:00 a.m. I relaxed, and enjoyed the sense of slipping free from the body, the noise of the fan, and the muggy heat of the town. I arrived at a castle on a rise that did not seem to be a mountain, but may have looked mountain-high to medieval travelers or besiegers. The castle was entirely constructed of red brick, in northern "Brick Gothic" style.
    I now had a companion. He did not look like my Double on the Balcony, and if there was a family resemblance I suspect it would be shared interests. He looked like one of the Victorian ghost-hunters who intrigue me and are quite often the theme of my studies and sometimes my dreams. He had a dark, full beard and wore a frock coat.
    He was eager to show me the design of the castle. It had been constructed and expanded in three phases. The core of the castle, its inner keep, combined the oldest and the newest part of the structure. The builders had worked out from this center, in an expanding spiral, and then returned to the center in the final phase, spiraling back in. From the air, the spiral pattern was clear.
    I had no idea, until now, that a castle could be both strong and so fluid. As my guide escorted me around the walls, he was almost skipping as he helped me to understand the spiral patterns. I clapped my hands with delight. He showed me there were friendly pubs and cafes in each of the three sections of the castle, and that I could take a break whenever I liked.
    I returned to my body from this excursion full of good cheer and confidence, quite sure that certain issues of structure and construction I've been facing in a current book project will be easily resolved, if I hold to that spiral design. I don't remember how my traveling self got to the castle. The red bricks remind me of castles I have visited in the Baltic, especially Trakai and Kaunas in Lithuania, and there will be more about my adventures in Lithuania in my new book.
     The Victorian-style gentleman reminds me of 
W.T. (William Thomas) Stead, the
newspaper editor, radical reformer and eager psychic researcher. Along with F.W.H. Myers, Stead is a great favorite of mine among the Victorian ghost-hunters; he was well acquainted with Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James and William James.
    I was reading a collection of essays by Stead just before going to bed last night, so I may have invited his attentions - or encouraged one of my own doubles to do some Victorian dress-up. Stead was fascinated by "ghosts of the living": by the possibility that, wittingly or unwittingly, all of us are capable of projecting astral doubles or rather tangible "thought forms" that can interact with others. 

    He came to think that we may be leading continuous lives outside our present physical bodies, and that dreams can be memories of those other lives. In his essay "The Ghost That Dwells in Us", Stead reports the case of a man who claimed that whenever he closed his eyes he woke up in another body in a life that was completely different from his ordinary reality. He enjoyed both lives, but preferred the one he was living while his body was asleep.
     Stead speculated that "it is not impossible to conceive the possibility of a continuous series of connected dreams, which would result in giving us a realizing sense of leading two existences." I think this is exactly right. If we fail to notice this, it is because of our imperfect memories. In our dream situations, we forget what we are in the world of the sleeping body. When we return to the body, we forget most of what we experiences when we were out of it, or living in other bodies in other realities. But when we acquire a "realizing sense" (in Stead's quaint and attractive phrase) of what may be going on here, we may start to remember more of what it means to be alive in the multiverse.
    By the way, Stead gets around. He was renowned for his personal psychic gifts when he was alive. He communicated with an assistant by pure telepathy, beaming thoughts to her and then letting his hand record her responses - which were usually quite specific and accurate - through semi-automatic writing. Before he went down on the Titanic, he had promised to report on conditions on the Other Side after death. He kept his promise. He returned (via a medium) to give one of the best and (to my mind) most reliable accounts of what happens after death in a marvelous little book published as The Blue Island.

For more on Stead and the Victorian psychic researchers, please see The Dreamer's Book of the Dead.


Louisa said...

Russians say, "Dear is a spoon at dinner time." Thank you for reminding us about The Blue Island. For me it was a timely discovery. This remarkable little book can be read online here:

Worldbridger said...

A few years ago I experienced myself in another space and time, completely physical as I experience my own physicality in this reality. When I finally returned to 'here and now' I laughed out loud because I suddenly realized what Castenada had meant when he titled one of his books "A Separate Reality."

docspond said...

On this Salem ghost tour they were talking about Edward Searle and his haunted properties from California to Massachusetts. He had made at least 3 castles.