Book Review: Things That Go Bump

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My husband and I have knocked on a lot of doors.

I can drive up and down the streets in the district I represent and tell you who lives behind most of the doors. I know their faces and thoughts. They’ve told me their fears, shared their joys and come to me for help, sometimes when they were at the extremities of life.

This is a deep privilege, knowing these people in such depth. Their trust is a gift.

I don’t spend a lot of money on my political campaigns. I substitute knowing them and letting them know me for the piles of cash that other candidates use to get elected. Every time I have a campaign, I go to each and every door and ask them if they will vote for me again. That’s a lot of doors. It takes time and effort and the expenditure of calories.

My husband has knocked on almost as many doors as I have, a lot of them for me. He comes from a political family. He cut his teeth on campaigns.

We got into a discussion a few weeks ago about the phenomena almost every politician who has done this knows. When you walk up to a house, you know if there is someone inside it. They can be asleep or watching tv, but you know if there is someone inside that house. By the same token, if they’ve gone to the grocery store, you know that no one is home.

The question is, how do we know that? Why does a house without a person in it give off such different and identifiable vibes than one where somebody is home?

I don’t have any idea how we know. I don’t even have any idea if this is something that is peculiar to people like politicians who knock a lot of doors and are deeply attuned to observing and understanding people on an unspoken level, or if it’s something that happens to most people.

I only know that we know. And that this knowing has been confirmed time and time again when we knock on the door.

This phenomena fits my personal belief that there is far more to us than you can find in an autopsy lab. In fact, there is far more to us than science will admit.

The Angel Effect is about this simple fact. Scientists have a tendency to dismiss a whole side of human potential as delusion, or worse, confabulation.

There are things we can see and do that simply do not line up with the limited, one-dimensional understanding of who we are that science tries to project onto us. The Angel Effect is about one small aspect of that great sea of human dimension that scientists have tried to either ignore or bully into silence.

The author called this the Third Man in an earlier book he wrote about the same phenomena. In The Angel Effect, he describes his own experience with the third man, and then goes on to share with us what are the beginnings and somewhat tortured “explanations” of various people of science concerning this phenomena.

I, for one, am gratified that scientists are at least moving off their ludicrous contention that this is all either delusion or lie. The idea — which I’ve heard proclaimed as fact all my life — that literally billions of people throughout history from all over the globe who do not know one another are telling the same stories because they are having delusions or making up the same lie is preposterous. It’s hubris, not explanation.

The Third Man the author talks about is one isolated phenomena in a whole range of human experiences that fall outside conventional explanation. The Third Man is when a helpful other, a person or being, appears without explanation to offer assistance in times of stress.

The author lumps all sorts of experiences of the other in this category, things which I think are discreet and different from one another. For instance, I don’t think Marian apparitions such as what happened in Fatima are the same as the Third Man. For that matter, I don’t think the experiences people sometimes have of seeing their dead loved ones are the same as the Third Man.

Here’s a for instance. Loretta Lynn wrote in her book, The Coal Miner’s Daughter, that she heard her father for a moment. She was on the west coast, while her father was all the way across the country. She learned later that her father had died at the same time she heard him. In another instance, Sebastian Junger wrote in The Perfect Storm that one of the small children of one of the fishermen who died in the storm saw their father at about the time he died.

Something a little bit like that happened to me when my father was dying. I woke from a deep sleep when I heard my father’s voice say “Becky!” I called my parents, and my mother told me that Daddy had suddenly become desperately ill.

Loretta Lynn, the fisherman’s child and I weren’t in distress when these things happened. We didn’t seek them. They came to us.

How does this happen? Is it our brains, reaching out across the miles at the time of our deaths or, as in the case of my Daddy, when we are in great distress, to communicate to the ones we love? Or, in the case of those who have died, is it our immortal selves, making a stop on the way to that next place to say good-bye?

We’ll all know the answers to these questions in good time. But in the meantime, it’s enough to say that there are too many of these occurrences for them to be delusions or confabulation.

The point I’m making is that there is a lot more to us than our current understanding of who we are will admit. An admission that the Third Man phenomena actually happens is a baby step in the right direction of understanding ourselves for real.

I could go on for a long time, describing things that people have seen and heard. After all, I am the mother confessor for tens of thousands of people. But that would violate their confidence.

What I will say is that these things I’ve described are just the tip of it. We are immortal beings with an eternal lifespan. There is in us the transcendent. God has given us brains to match that. Not only can we conceive of eternity, we have within us the equipment, both spiritual and — I am convinced — physical, to reach out to it.

I look forward to the day when science begins to understand how our finite brains can do these things. But I also know that scientific explanation will never touch the essential knowing of the transcendent that our experiences reflect.

The Angel Affect is one man’s attempt to explain his own brush with transcendence. He looks at the nascent attempts by a few scientists — mostly medical people — to explain the Third Man experience. He also seems to find a lot of people who are not religious who these experiences have happened to. I wouldn’t be able to do that in my community, since almost everyone is religious, whether they go to church or not.

However, the fact that this happens to all people, whatever their beliefs, is just a reflection that this is a human and not a dogmatic experience. We are all made of the same earth and the same breath of God. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, we are endowed by our Creator with certain abilities and ways of knowing that reflect that.

I have put the author’s first book on hold at the library so I can read it, too. The Angel Effect is a thought-provoking book that raises more questions than it gives answers. If you ever wonder why and how you know the things that you don’t have any way of knowing, or if you’ve ever felt the presence of a helpful Other when you were in trouble, then it’s definitely worth your time to read it.


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