In The Third Man Factor George Geiger reports many cases where people, most often in extreme risk, sense a supportive companion who accompanies them. In his review of the book for Wall Street Journal, Michael Ybarra cites a few of these people: mountaineer Herman Buhl, the first person who climbed the Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas; Charles Lindberg on his 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic; Ron DiFrancesco, the last man to leave the collapsing World Trade Center in September 11, 2001. As Ybarra quotes Geiger:
"Over the years," Mr. Geiger writes, "the experience has occurred
again and again, not only to 9/11 survivors, mountaineers, and
divers, but also to polar explorers, prisoners of war, solo sailors,
shipwreck survivors, aviators, and astronauts. All have escaped
traumatic events only to tell strikingly similar stories of having
experienced the close presence of a companion and helper."
People in isolation, children and even Mr. Geiger himself at seven when he was threatened by a rattlesnake have felt this unseen presence.
I don’t know if it’s the same, but I know of people whom I trust who have reported extraordinary phenomena. My closest friend says his house was plagued by a poltergeist when his mother moved her father in over the father’s protests. The poltergeist remained after the grandfather died. One dying friend talked me about the young man with flowing blond hair who set next to me on the couch as I visited her in her hospital room. Another friend, also dying, told me about the people in her life whom she loved and who had died that came to talk to her when she was awake alone at night.
I’ve never experienced the unseen companion, but I’ve had enough precognitive and ESP experiences to believe we are connected in many ways that can’t be explained logically at this time. Because these experiences cannot be quantified, their veracity is up for grabs. Some people chalk psychic experiences up to coincidence or deluded thinking. Those unseen or only-visible-to-you companions? There are those who feel they are divine intervention and others who think they are hallucinations. Scientists have discovered they can trigger the companion experience by stimulating a certain area of the brain with electricity. That in itself should be enough to discredit a ‘supernatural’ explanation, right?
But what about the wide spread belief held by most people that they can talk to people who are not immediately in their presence? Scientists have studied this phenomenon extensively and have located a certain object among all the objects available to modern life that, in a person’s presence, when stimulated with energy, can reproduce this result. The person thinks the object rings or chimes or makes some signal, and the person can then talk to another person not in the physical vicinity.
When it comes right down to it, no one experiences anything directly. My dog is lying on the couch. So I think. So I believe. But in order to think and believe that, I must use my senses to detect what I’m calling a dog, and those senses flood the synapses that trigger chemical impulses in my brain which my brain interprets as Spunky, my dog on my couch. For me to believe this dog is real, I can only rely on the chemical and electrical activity in my brain. And speaking of chemical and electrical activity? With my sad state of scientific knowledge and know-how, if I am going to believe in them, I’m going to have to take the word of folks who have a lot more rocket-science sense than I do.
We are told by those brainiacs there are many more dimensions than we can not experience in our physical bodies. But if I could catch a whiff of one of these mostly inaccessible dimensions, wouldn’t it just make sense I am going to have to use the tool that I use to discern everything else in my life?
This is when my sly brainiac leaning-toward-Buddhist nonscientist likes to say, “Actually, none of it is real--the unseen companion, the dog, the couch, me, you.” That’s when my mind rolls into a ball like a porcupine, all my mental quills aquiver. And if my very-much-physical companion is feeling especially frisky, he might whisper, “If God is at all, God is all there is.”
That’s when my mental activity comes screeching to a halt. While I like thinking about ESP and precognition, poltergeists, and invisible company, I cannot wrap my thoughts further than that. Instead I focus on happiness, that illusive factor I invite to be my companion on the rest of this journey and beyond…whether anyone can prove it’s 'real' or not.