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The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts Point here for more book info
by Joe Fisher

Paraview Press, 2001
ISBN 1-931044-02-3
Controversial Knowledge, 313 pp
Trade Paperback: $16.95 

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Chapter 1 
An Excitable Young Lady From Greece 


Aviva Neumann stubbed out her cigarette, removed her spectacles and slung a pillow onto the arm of the sofa in her Toronto townhouse. Then she stretched out, wiggling her arms, shoulders and legs in search of the most comfortable position. 

Roger Belancour-tall, balding and withdrawn-sat on a chair facing me, his clasped hands resting on the back of the sofa. In a kindly, avuncular fashion, he waited for Aviva's scrawny frame to shrug off the last tics and twitches. 

The delay left me restless. It seemed we had been talking for hours about the voices, the mysterious voices, and I was impatient to hear them for myself. I leaned forward to scrutinize Aviva's face. All was still. Her slippered feet pointed daintily towards the ceiling. Her brow glistened in the oppressive humidity of the July evening. She looked delicate, vulnerable, and completely at peace. In repose, her sharp features had softened perceptibly. 

As I studied Aviva's impassivity, Roger began to address her supine form in a somber monotone that fell on my ears like a benediction: 

"Your key phrase is to go down to your most suggestible level of relaxation and when you hear that phrase from me you will be at your most suggestible level of relaxation and be able to go deeper from there." 

Still she lay there, motionless. 

"Your key phrase…." Roger repeated the induction. Then he started again. And again. 

The suspense was intolerable. To distract myself, I examined the painting on the far wall. It was an extraordinary piece, at odds with the domesticity of tubular furniture and blue drapes which framed sliding glass doors leading on to a narrow backyard. The painting showed six gaunt and scantily-clad people languishing in a dark cave. Their wretchedly thin arms stretched beseechingly towards a crack of light in the distance. I remained absorbed by this depiction of torment until a change in Roger's phrasing and intonation swiftly returned my gaze to Aviva's face. 

"Are we at a level where we may talk with the guides?"

For the first time, her lips parted. 

"If…you…wish," she answered drowsily. 

Roger glanced at me and smiled modestly as if to suggest that a dialogue would soon begin. He leaned over to a tape recorder which stood on a table behind the sofa and pressed the "record" button. Then, turning back to Aviva, he asked to speak to Russell. They had told me about Russell.

"Russell," Roger asked politely, "could you give us some information about our visitor's guide?" 

I stared unblinkingly at Aviva and waited. My stomach leapt as if to straddle the long pause between question and response. When her lips parted once more, her voice was barely recognizable. Gone was the high-pitched jocularity with the pronounced Australian lilt. Her enunciation was now unequivocally masculine; the English accent was unmistakable. This was an entirely different Aviva, strangely assertive and uncompromising. This was a voice which claimed to belong to Aviva's guide, a discarnate individual who had lived as a sheep farmer in Yorkshire during the last century. Speaking with all the conviction of a separate being, "he" was about to divulge the identity of the non-physical personage who was directly responsible for my welfare. My guide! 

"The guide is a female." 

"Her name?" asked Roger. 

"Filipa-in her past life. This is what she is known and goes by." "And would she be willing to give her charge some information pertaining to herself as to her past life and what nationality she was?" 

"She says she has been with him many lifetimes; and he with her. They have alternated roles. Her last lifetime was in what is known now as Greece from the years 1718 to 1771 on the Greek calendar which is five days different from your own." 

I was flabbergasted. Aviva's eyes remained closed and her body was immobile, save for the face muscles and larynx. Some part of me wanted to reach out and shake her limp arm and demand: "What are you saying?" But a saner, more settled corner of my psyche knew that Aviva was no longer consciously in our company. Who, then, was this austere character called Russell? Had I really lived in eighteenth-century Greece with a woman called Filipa whom I had known, perhaps even loved, over many lifetimes? It was all so instantaneous and overwhelming. But there was no time to be speechless because Russell had already moved on to other things and was demanding that I answer him. 

"Have you no curiosity," he inquired, "as to whether you may be a soul or an entity?" 

I was expecting this. Roger had explained beforehand that the "guides" who speak through Aviva had insisted that there were two types of human beings on the planet: souls and entities. Souls were said to be created from desire while entities were born of knowledge. Apparently, the two types differed fundamentally. 

"Yes, I do," I replied apprehensively. "Will you please tell me which I am?" 

"I would ask," Russell responded, "which do you think you are?" 

Mildly intimidated, I was not about to be drawn into making a choice. Aviva, whom I had met only a week earlier, had invited me to "observe" the guides because she thought I might be able to help her understand the state of garrulous unconsciousness in which she was now enveloped. An observer I wanted to remain. Besides, I knew very little about the concept of souls and entities and had difficulty with the idea that the human race was divided into two streams. I told Russell as much. 

"Yes, I know," he intoned sympathetically. "It has been rather poorly explained to you. You are, in fact, an entity...You have reasonable power as an entity. You have, in part, begun some forward development, although not on a conscious level. Most of your forward development has been on what you would term a subconscious level. You have never been a soul. You were always an entity created from knowledge, from the pool of knowledge which has been spoken of many times in many sessions." 

My befuddlement knew no bounds. Yet I was ready to believe. My father was a retired Baptist minister and my mother, a staunch Christian whose psychic ability left her fretful lest God be displeased by her involuntary visions, had recently become a Jehovah's Witness. Fundamentalism, naturally, had dominated my childhood. But I had followed a spiritual path of my own and had come to accept reincarnation as integral to the life process, a requirement of human evolution. 

Initially, I had been merely intrigued by the proposition that we return to Earth to inhabit different bodies. In time, I concurred with reincarnation theory, which states that both sexes, a variety of races, and ever-changing roles and relationships are often experienced over a succession of lifetimes in order to learn the lessons of life. The more I studied ancient beliefs and the work of modern reincarnation investigators and past-life therapists, the more enthusiastically I responded to a statement of Voltaire's which still strikes me as eminently sane: "It is no more surprising to be born twice than it is to be born once." 

Later, I became fascinated by the innumerable references in scripture, mythology, metaphysical literature and, most recently, medical research testifying to unseen presences with whom contact could be made. Russell's invisible yet almost tangible presence confirmed in practice what I acknowledged in theory-that we are attended by disembodied intelligences who inhabit a non-material universe. As for the soul entity question, who could say whether Russell was right or wrong? But I was glad, even relieved, to be hailed as an entity, if only because I would rather have been created from knowledge than desire. 

The ramifications of this encounter were staggering. While there was much more exploring to do, it seemed that I had stumbled upon a treasure-trove of metaphysical insight, a resource which could yield untold information about life beyond the grave. 

Having read about spirit guides such as Seth, I had been perplexed by the trance state in which mediums were said to relay the teachings of these unearthly beings. Now I was witnessing this strangely enticing phenomenon and was having difficulty remaining emotionally detached. No matter how impressive Aviva's self-surrender might be, I told myself the evidence of my eyes and ears must be distrusted. Clearly, the struggle was to keep my head, to remain objective…and hope that this promising El Dorado would not turn out to be fool's gold. 

Roger broke into my ruminations to ask whether I had any questions for my guide. Although he felt that Filipa would be unable to speak directly through Aviva on this occasion, he assured me that she would soon be able to talk with her own voice. Russell volunteered to act as intermediary in the interim, explaining that guides first had to "learn the energies" if they wished to communicate through a human "vehicle." 

"Filipa says," offered Russell, "that she would be most delighted if personal contact were to be made with her. She says your knowledge and your self-discipline and your style of thought processes make you what she calls a good candidate for communication on a direct level. Then you could receive direction from her." 

"How should I make this direct contact?" 

"She suggests that if you put aside the same particular moment each day on the earthbound plane to establish thought control patterns upon herself, this would be a good start. For one who has contact with a guide has a more open resource for control of his or her own destiny. This would also offer new companionship and she says that there is much instability of companionship in your life."

These words were instantly unnerving, as I had long experienced some difficulty in sustaining romantic relationships. I had barely learned of my guide's existence and now she was identifying this source of personal concern. (Was this apparent weakness, I wondered, already undermining the life I shared with Rachel, my live-in girlfriend?) Silently, I speculated whether Filipa had intimate knowledge of my dealings with others. Though I believed I had some very good friends, perhaps some of my friendships were more flawed than I realized. Whatever Filipa's words were meant to suggest, her immediate recognition of my vulnerability was unsettling, to put it mildly. 

"She feels," added Russell, "that she can become the old sock of comfort." 

Warming to this remark, I requested some information on the last relationship we had shared on Earth.

"She says this was, for her, during the immediate past life in Greece. You were a male and she was a female. You were to be her suitor. However, you both transgressed in the eyes of the community. You were sent from the village and did not return. She says she did not wish for this to happen. However, the village is more powerful than the one." 

The village is more powerful than the one. The phrase was sonorous, poetic, and conjured images of Greece. Ten years earlier, I had composed most of my first novel on the Greek isle of Siphnos. I loved Greece, its culture and its people, and I could readily imagine that I had once incarnated in that richly atmospheric land. Sitting on the floor of Aviva's living room, I found myself breathing the air of a bygone era, roaming parched valleys and ancient crypts. I imagined Filipa's dark eyes and long black tresses. 

So magnificently seductive was the moment that I wanted to merge with the reverie. But the skeptic inside screamed in protest, demanding that Filipa's credibility be established before the dreamer was granted any further indulgence. 

Could Filipa tell me, I asked, when I arrived in Canada and from whence I came? 

"She says your concept of time is quite different from her own and that she has not had to work with earthbound time since her departure from the earthbound plane. It is difficult especially when there has been virtually no contact of a spontaneous nature between herself and her charge. She does not understand what you mean by the term 'coming to Canada.' She says you were born on the earthbound plane and have not left the earthbound plane in this lifetime. What do you mean by 'Canada'?" 

I was charmed by Filipa's lack of geographical knowledge. After all, if she hadn't lived on Earth for over two hundred years, her ignorance of Canada was quite understandable. 

"She asks," Russell inquired, "was this a known place when she was last on the earthbound plane?"

"No," I conceded. "That's an interesting point because Canada was only formed as a nation in 1867."

"She departed the earthbound plane many years prior to that. She says that in tiny places like Theros, where you and she lived, it was difficult to learn of the outside world. Information could be gleaned only from those who passed through the village, usually from the Black Sea en route to larger centers." 

"Theros? This is where we lived together for a while?" 


"Is this an island? Or the name of a community?" 

"This is a village. It is, she says, only five days' walk from the Black Sea."

Of course, I reasoned, peasants living in the eighteenth century would have measured all journeys in walking time. Once more, I was tempted to follow the images that sprang to mind. But the skeptic within was impatient with such impetuously romantic forays into the old world. First, I needed to ascertain whether Russell and Filipa truly were who they claimed to be. Without knowing quite how to go about it, I pushed Russell for such an assurance. His reply was warm and considerate. 

"I feel that if you wish earthbound verification of the guides this course of questioning you have chosen with Filipa is your correct course. However, at this stage, I'm afraid the poor girl is a little flustered. She's an excitable young lady and she's deeply intrigued but I do not think she has fully understood what you were asking of her tonight…I have a feeling-and I will explain to her-that she is being asked to deliver physical proof of her relationship to you…She says that she is still not over what you might call juvenile fascination." 

She's not the only one, I thought, as my imagination cavorted in the dust of a remote Greek village. Such was my enchantment that I barely heard Roger invoke the practiced refrain that brought Aviva back from the trance state. I was visualizing secret liaisons with a raven-haired beauty. I was re-living our betrayal and, finally, my despair as a group of wrinkled elders in black smocks ordered my banishment. The village is more powerful than the one.

I wanted to believe. But my years as a journalist had bred such caution that the dispassionate observer continued to agitate me. I knew that I must not allow emotional vulnerability and spiritual aspiration to influence my judgment. Non-attachment was regarded as a pearl of great price by the spiritual masters. Non-attachment was the state of mind I strove to achieve. 

I was still wrestling internally when Aviva's eyes flickered open and Roger helped her struggle groggily into an upright position. Clearly disoriented, she reached awkwardly for her spectacles and sank back against the sofa, eyes closed, for several minutes. When Aviva opened her eyes once more she sighed and stretched her arms and I told her that she looked as though someone had just woken her up in the middle of a deep sleep. 

"That's very much what it feels like," she said languidly. There was no trace of Russell's English accent, nor of his supreme self-assurance. It seemed all that remained from her sojourn in another state of consciousness was a dry and rasping throat. When Roger brought her a tall glass of water she gulped down its contents. 

"You get very thirsty," she went on. "Coming back isn't much fun. It's as if I'm being dragged very swiftly up a mineshaft. Or, as you say, it's like hearing an alarm go off when I'm dead to the world. And I am dead to the world, believe me. I'm not conscious of anything I say once Roger puts me out. And I don't remember a thing afterwards.

" A few minutes of quiet recovery ensued before Aviva spoke once more. 

"Well," she said, "did you meet your guide?" 

Roger and I smiled knowingly. 

"Well?" Her eyes were wide with inquiry. 

"Apparently," I said, "my guide is a Greek woman who was last on Earth in the eighteenth century."

"Greek!" Aviva exclaimed, lighting up a cigarette. "Whatever next? It's getting like the United Nations around here, Roger." 

Copyright 2001 Joe Fisher. 


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