From New Dawn Special Issue No 5 (Winter 2008)
Of those of us who do take mediumship and channelling seriously, and believe wholeheartedly in the existence of discarnate entities, very few of us are willing to concede that such beings may be liars and manipulators – and not just that, but purposely malevolent. There is, acknowledges the novelist Michael Prescott, “a dark side to the paranormal. It is not all benevolent angels and comforting words from deceased relatives. There can be obsession, deterioration of rational thought, shared fantasy, even a descent into madness. There can be hungry ghosts.”
When it comes to encounters with ‘hungry ghosts’, no story is more disturbing and tragic than that of Canadian journalist and best-selling author Joe Fisher. Fisher committed suicide at age 53 on May 9, 2001, throwing himself off a limestone cliff at Elora Gorge, Canada. One newspaper suggested he may have been murdered. Shortly before his death, Fisher’s final book, The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts, an investigation into channelling and spirit guides – described by its publisher as “his gripping journey into a realm of darkness and deception” – was republished by Paraview Press. What gives this story a strange twist is that, in one of his last communications with his editor-in-chief Patrick Huyghe, Fisher stated that the spirits he had allegedly angered as a result of writing the book were still causing him trouble.
Fisher’s works include the metaphysical classics Life Between Life, Predictions and The Case for Reincarnation, the last of which includes a preface by the 14th Dalai Lama.
In an article on the topic of ‘spirit possession’, famous British author Colin Wilson, who acknowledges Fisher as a friend, mentions that he “had been cheerful and normal, and no one, including myself, could believe that he had killed himself.” He mentions, moreover, that Fisher believed in life after death, and subscribed to the theory of reincarnation. “What baffled me was that he must have been convinced that suicide would only leave him with another set of problems.” Wilson has a point, because in The Case for Reincarnation, Fisher had written:
“Those who learn that they have killed themselves in past lives are quickly brought to the realisation that suicide, far from being an answer to life’s problems is (instead) the violent breaking of the lifeline. If the (suicide) could only realise the resulting intensification of difficulty which must enter the life to come, (suicide) would never be (attempted).”
That Fisher’s death was caused by a group of malevolent discarnate entities – who perhaps influenced his mind – might sound far-fetched and sensational to some. It is, however, a possibility that cannot be ignored, as anyone who’s read Hungry Ghosts would probably agree. Unable to accept that an optimistic, spiritually-minded man like Fisher would want to take his own life, Wilson writes: “I find myself speculating whether his suicide had anything to do with a weird experience he had in the 1980s.”
FISHER MEETS HIS ‘SPIRIT GUIDE’
That “weird experience” began in 1984, when Fisher met an Australian-Canadian medium named Aviva Nuemann, who suffered from chronic leukaemia. Aviva had contacted Fisher, suggesting he attend a channelling session at her house, because, she said, she did not feel entirely comfortable being a ‘mouthpiece’ for discarnate entities, and was hoping that he, an expert on metaphysics, might be able to shed some light on the matter. When they first met, Aviva, a laboratory technologist, stressed the point that she had “never believed in the so-called psychic world. I think astrology is absolute crap, and I’ve got no time for anything that’s supposed to be paranormal…” She told him the remarkable story of how she became a channeler for ‘the guides’.
It all started, she said, when she agreed to allow her friend and neighbour, Roger Belancourt, to try to heal her under hypnosis. His aim was to administer positive medical suggestions to her subconscious mind, such as “Your bone-marrow will start immediately to manufacture the extra red blood cells needed by your body.” These hypnotic sessions took an experimental turn when Roger began probing Aviva’s mind for past-life memories. In an emotionless voice, and in the third-person, Aviva described having been a peasant woman named Svetlana who lived through the Russian revolution, as well as a Punjabi infant who died of malnutrition before his first birthday. Other ‘past lives memories’ were described as well.
Probing deeper still, Roger managed to contact another part of Aviva’s mind, even more knowledgeable than her subconscious. It referred to itself as the ‘alter-consciousness’. Roger discovered that every organ of Aviva’s body, and every aspect of her personality, appeared to possess its own alter-consciousness, each with its own voice. He used the ‘voices’ to monitor Aviva’s health. By communicating with the blood’s alter-consciousness, for instance, Roger was able to tell whether Aviva’s red blood cell count had increased or decreased. This higher aspect of Aviva’s mind – what one might term her ‘superconsciousness’ – proved to be very knowledgeable about spiritual matters. The aim of reincarnation is “forward development,” it said, which is “understanding of oneself.” When brought back to full consciousness, Aviva had no memory of what had transpired while in trance. It was as though she had been deeply asleep.
Seeing as her alter-consciousness seemed to know just about everything, Roger decided to ask it if ‘spirit guides’ actually existed, for he had long suspected that he was watched over by a deceased Tibetan Lama named Jai-Lin. Roger found to his delight that he could communicate with Jai-Lin via Aviva’s alter-consciousness, which, in Fisher’s words, “acted as intermediary, relaying messages from the next world.” Roger was told by his ‘guide’ that he “must always think positive thoughts,” and that “you have much to learn in self-discipline.”
Annoyed by the fact that Roger was unable to control his negative emotions, Jai-Lin told Roger that he must move on to meet fresh challenges elsewhere. Jai-Lin was eventually replaced by another ‘guide,’ an affectionate entity named Hanni, who claimed to have been Roger’s mother in a previous life in the Netherlands. Every incarnate individual was administered a spirit guide, Roger was told. But this did not necessarily mean that one had the same guide throughout the whole course of their life – or, for that matter, several life times. Sometimes a guide would leave their ‘charge’ – the incarnate person whom they were required to ‘watch over’ – and another guide would fill their place.
Having mastered the ability to manipulate Aviva’s vocal cords – a process that was said to take some time – Hanni was able to speak through the entranced Aviva. Fisher describes Hanni’s voice as “soft and tenderly,” and totally dissimilar to Aviva’s. While channelling her own guide – a Yorkshire farmer named Russell who claimed to have last lived on earth during the 19th century – the voice that issued from Aviva’s mouth was also unlike her own, so much so that it left Fisher stunned. “Gone was the high-pitched jocularity with the pronounced Australian lilt,” he says. “Her enunciation was now unequivocally masculine; the English accent was unmistakable.”
Speaking to Russell, Fisher was not only surprised by Aviva’s change in voice, but by her change in personality too. “This was an entirely different Aviva,” he says, “strangely assertive and uncompromising.” Fisher felt as though he were talking to a separate being, and not, for instance, a fragment of Aviva’s unconscious mind.
Fisher was told by Russell that humanity was divided into two groups – souls and entities. Souls were said to be “created from desire,” and entities “born of knowledge.” Neither one of the groups was superior, said Russell. Although he found the concept difficult to accept, Fisher was glad to be hailed as an entity – clearly the more appealing of the two groups. Entities were classified as individuals, while souls were said to have more of a group mentality.
Fisher’s guide turned out to be a young Greek woman named Filipa Gavrilos. Three centuries earlier, said Russell, she and Fisher had been lovers in a little Greek village called Theros. Apparently they had been together over many lifetimes. The news blew Fisher away, for he had always been strongly drawn to Greece, and, as a child, the name Phillipa had appealed to him. Russell described Filipa as an “excitable young lady.” Eventually, he said, she would be able to speak through Aviva. In the meantime, Fisher tried to develop mind-to-mind contact with Filipa. Each day, Fisher would close his eyes and will Filipa to communicate with him, a regimen he followed religiously for the next three years.
In late-1984, Filipa spoke through Aviva for the very first time. Initially, admits Fisher, he was rather unimpressed with Filipa, and had “serious doubts about her intelligence… Her initial responses were almost juvenile, prompting me to remark to Roger and Aviva that I had attracted a ‘disco queen’ for a guide.” As the sessions continued, however, Filipa quickly became “an advisor, a best friend. And my ideal lover.” He adds: “Filipa and I seemed to think alike, feel alike and see the world from a near-identical perspective.”
The guides said they could read the minds of their charges, which seemed to be true. They knew certain things about their charges that only their charges knew. They could, for instance, describe what their charge had been doing or thinking on a particular day, and at a particular time – information that could only have been gained psychically.
Fisher’s daily attempts to communicate with Filipa on a mind-to-mind basis began to yield some interesting results. Whenever contact had been successfully established, “a loud buzzing would reverberate in my ears, a sound that could be likened to an internal droning of cicadas.” During these meditative sessions, images would sometimes appear in his mind. One time he saw the image of woman walking towards him. She was wearing sandals and a long white wrap, her face partially hidden by a garment. He knew the woman was Filipa. “Within seconds, my body was racked with the most profound and unrestrained emotion. I wept out of joy and sadness and loss and anguish, yet to this day I don’t really know why.” It was, he says, “one of the most moving experiences of my life.”
Mind-to-mind contact could best be achieved when Fisher was in a particularly relaxed mood, with very few thoughts running through his head. Sometimes he’d imagine himself hugging Filipa, and this she appreciated greatly. Fisher could tell that she longed for a physical body. Filipa and the other guides disliked nothing more than to be referred to as ‘spirits’, and to be reminded of the fact that they no longed occupied physical bodies. To call one of the guides a spirit was to make them annoyed, even angry. “We’re not spirits!” Russell once shouted. “We’re people just like you. It’s just that we don’t have bodies any more.” Fisher found it a little dubious that the guides were so attached to the ‘physical plane’, even though they stressed that they were no more ‘spiritually evolved’ than their charges.
Occasionally, said Fisher, conversations with Filipa “would erupt in my head.” Once, while running up a steep hill, Fisher heard “a voice or implanted thought-form.” So as to make the climb much easier, the ‘voice’ told him to imagine that his feet were not touching the ground. The technique had a positive effect. When next at Aviva’s house, Fisher asked Filipa if she had spoken to him while he was out running. She answered yes, and was able to relate exactly what she had told him. “Somehow,” explains Fisher, “Filipa had to be either living inside me or hovering perpetually close by, picking up via some otherworldly antenna my organism’s every twitch and shudder.”
The guides appeared to have access to an almost unlimited amount of information. They even claimed to know “the nature of God.” However, they said, the amount of time required to explain it would take some three hundred sessions; for this reason, the project was never attempted. Fisher admits to being impressed by the teachings and advice offered by the guides. They were taught, among other things, about the history of Atlantis and Lemuria; about the workings of the mind; about reincarnation, karma and spiritual development. And so on and so forth. “So rich and so abundant were the insights and observations that there were times when I felt overwhelmed by the veritable geyser of information,” he says. Communicating with the guides was an addictive and thrilling experience.
As time went on, Fisher grew slightly suspicious of the guides. When, during one session, Filipa said she was aware of every thought he ever had about her, “the remark left me weak with ardent appreciation. Every time I thought of her, she knew. How attentive, I asked myself, can you get?” The guides gave long lectures about the importance of peace and love, but in many ways their teachings rang empty, and possessed little substance. Also worrying is that they intervened, both physically and emotionally, in the lives of their charges, while at the same time stressing the importance of free will. Such a massive contradiction was impossible to explain.
In his book The Paranormal, Stan Gooch describes the teachings of ‘spirit guides’ as “a kind of intellectual candy-floss… when you chew on these utterances, there is nothing there. The mouth is empty.” The late D. Scott Rogo, a prolific writer and researcher of parapsychological phenomena, was of much the same opinion as Gooch. “I find that most channelled discourses possess the spiritual and philosophical sophistication of a Dick-and-Jane book,” he explains in The Infinite Boundary.
“The more I loved Filipa,” writes Fisher, “the more I hungered for tangible proof of her existence.” For this reason, and because he wished to write a book about discarnate beings and life in the ‘next dimension’, Fisher set about trying to prove the identities of the guides. He wanted to know if they had lived the lives they said they had. Fisher knew enough about spirits to realise that they were rarely who they claimed to be. He had, in fact, been warned about this by Russell, who, during one of their first conversations, clearly stated that mischievous spirits sometimes like to pose as wise and knowledgeable spirit guides.
The guides were more than happy with Fisher’s desire to prove their identities, and were eager to offer him specific details about their lives on earth. First of all, decided Fisher, he would try to follow up on the information given by ex-RAF bomber pilot William Alfred Scott, the guide of a man named Tony. Scott said he had been born in Bristol in 1917, had started his RAF career in 99 Squadron at Mildenhall, Suffolk, and, ironically, had not been killed in the air, but in a German bombing raid on Coventry in 1944. Scott knew everything about the squadron, its operations, and his fellow officers. However, discovered Fisher, there had been no Flying Officer William Scott in the Squadron, as proven by a visit to the Public Record Office at Kew. Numerous other details were found to be bogus too.
When, back in Canada, and in a bitter mood, Fisher confronted Scott as to why he had lied, the once calm and polite entity became peevish and irritable. “I do not wish for my privacy to be violated,” he said. “I have given you all the information you need and, as such, it will stand.” Worming his way out of the situation, Scott claimed that he was unable to stick around for very much longer, because he had made plans to reincarnate soon. A suitable “bodily vehicle” had been located in Southern England, he said. After saying farewell, Scott departed for the ‘physical plane’. Much later on, Russell provided details of Scott’s ‘new incarnation’ – his name, DOB, place of birth, and the names of his parents. Surprisingly, the information checked out, and Fisher managed to obtain a birth-certificate for the infant. Fisher contacted the parents, who, although intrigued by the matter, were unwilling to get involved. He respected their decision.
If the guides had wanted to be believed, thought Fisher, wouldn’t they have claimed to have been people who had actually existed? Were they, perhaps, drawing on the knowledge and memories of other people – either living or dead – to create their identities?
As for his beloved Filipa, she too was found to be a liar and deceiver – or, in Fisher’s words, “a master of deception.” During his travels through Greece, Fisher was unable to find the ruins of Theros, let alone any evidence that the village had actually existed. And not only that, the city of Alexandroupolis, which Filipa had mentioned visiting during the eighteenth century, had not even existed at that point in history. In fact, discovered Fisher, the city had been named after a twentieth-century monarch!
During the remainder of his stay in Greece, while lying in bed late at night and brooding on Filipa’s betrayal, “her buzzing returned to plague me. Once so comforting and reassuring, the noise in my ears took on a shrill and sinister aspect, leaving me sleepless.” At that point, says Fisher, he began to grow afraid of Russell, Filipa and the other guides. “If they knew us all so intimately – as they had demonstrated on countless occasions – who could say what power they wielded over our lives?”
After the guides had been unmasked, only one or two members left the group. Overall, their faith in the guides had hardly been shaken. Fisher describes Russell – clearly the leader of the guides – as “devious, manipulative and potentially dangerous,” and “as slippery as the proverbial eel and a master psychologist to boot.” Fisher was unable to talk to Filipa, because, said Russell, “You’ve quite completely shut her out.” They never spoke again. In an article on the Joe Fisher story, the philosopher and paranormal investigator Jonathan Zap suggests that the guides may have actually been one entity – “a single shape-shifting entity who, like the devil, ‘hath power to assume a pleasing shape’ and was capable of performing a whole cast of characters of both genders.”
An-ex member of the group, Sandford Ellison, told Fisher how the guides had almost ruined his life. During private sessions with the guides, particularly with Russell, Ellison was told that if he didn’t leave his wife – a soul, not an entity – he would die. They even said “that she was trying to kill me by projecting powerful negative energies my way.” While working with the guides, who were teaching him to channel ‘healing energies’, Ellison suffered from “fierce emotional fluctuations and bouts of muddled thinking.” When no longer in their presence, he felt much better. During his final conversation with Russell, whereby he explained that he wanted nothing further to do with the guides, Ellison was told “that I would commit suicide in a fit of depression.” Before splitting with the guides, Fisher, like Ellison, had felt poorly. “I was more jittery than usual,” he says, “more susceptible to insomnia and nervous tension… I could not shrug off a cloying sense of contamination which could neither be pinpointed nor explained.”
Having spent years listening to, and talking intimately with, the entities channelled through Aviva, and having spoken with a number of other channelled entities, Fisher was forced to accept, somewhat ruefully, that these ostensibly wise and benevolent beings – “who have wormed their way into that juicy apple of spiritual regeneration known as The New Age” – were nothing more than ‘lower astral entities’ or ‘hungry ghosts’. Fisher defines these vampiric beings, these poor, wretched souls, as “individuals whose minds, at the point of physical death, have been incapable of disentangling from desire. Thus enslaved, the personality becomes trapped on the lower planes even as it retains, for a while, its memory and individuality. Hence the term ‘lost soul,’ a residual entity that is no more than an astral corpse-in-waiting. It has condemned itself to perish; it has chosen a ‘second death’.”
SUICIDED BY HUNGRY GHOSTS?
In his aforementioned article on ‘spirit possession’, Colin Wilson asks the question: “Was his suicide an attempt to rejoin Filipa?” To support this theory, Wilson explains how Fisher’s involvement with Filipa had “spoiled him for a normal sex life,” as revealed in the following quote, taken from Hungry Ghosts: “My terrestrial love life was doomed. No woman of flesh and blood could hope to emulate Filipa’s love and concern. No incarnate female could ever begin to understand me in the fashion to which I had become accustomed. In a sense, I was lost to the world, living in a limbo land…”
Wilson offers another compelling theory:
“I talked about the mystery of Joe’s suicide to Suzanna McInerny, who is the president of the College of Psychic Studies in South Kensington. Suzanna confirmed that long-term involvement with ‘hungry ghosts’ can cause difficult inner problems. A kind of dirt sticks to the medium’s ‘aura’ (or vital energies), which has to be cleaned off by another medium, like a window cleaner polishing off grime. This dirt can cause depression and a sense of unreality. And sometimes, Suzanna said, a ‘hungry ghost’ can even hang around inside somebody, quite unsuspected, and can only be evicted by a medium who understands such matters. She agreed with me that this could well be the explanation of Joe’s suicide.”
Fisher was of the opinion “that no highly-evolved, spiritual being would ever speak through a medium.” He quotes the late Tibetan Buddhist lama Namgyal Rinpoche, founder of the Dharma Centre of Canada, who makes the same point: “As a general spiritual law, no enlightened being would speak through an ordinary human. The discarnate spirits who are making themselves known through channelling are united in their desperate need for love. Their audience is a generation that is also hungry for love.”
In light of Fisher’s unfortunate story, it would be easy to form the opinion that all channelled entities are troublesome – possibly even malevolent – lower astral entities, and that, as is written in 2 Corinthians 14, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” For a fundamentalist Christian – which your author is not – such a facile view would be deeply satisfying. But nothing in life is that black and white. Perhaps the last word should go to Zap, who warns, “We need to consider the subtle ways that discarnates may influence our thoughts, emotions, sexuality and behaviour. Joe Fisher’s apparent suicide adds an ominous implication that these entities are not to be underestimated…”
Dedicated to the memory of Joe Fisher (1947 – 2001)
Loren Coleman, The Anomalist, The Sudden Death of Joe Fisher, www.anomalist.com/milestones/fisher.html
Jonathan Zap, The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts, 2006, www.zaporacle.com/textpattern/article/110/the-siren-call-of-hungry-ghosts
Suhotra Swami, Channeling – Extrasensory Deception?, 1998, krishnascience.com/Vaisnava%20Library/Philosophy/Articles%20from%20Suhotra%20Swami/Channeling.htm
Emanuel Swedenborg, The Heavenly Doctrines, www.heavenlydoctrines.org
Joe Fisher, The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts, Paraview Press, USA, 2001
Stan Gooch, The Origins of Psychic Phenomena, Rider & Co, UK, 1984
Stan Gooch, The Paranormal, Wildwood House, Ltd, 1978
Jon Klimo, Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., USA,
D. Scott Rogo, The Infinite Boundary, Dodd, Mead & Co, USA, 1987
Wilson Van Dusen, The Natural Depth in Man, Harper & Row, USA, 1972
© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.
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