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Sharon's Conference Talk

This year was our fourth annual Gettysburg Conference. We come here to teach, to share and to learn. We teach others what we have learned throughout the year so they can take that knowledge and apply it to their own research. We teach others how to go out and document spirits of the dead, in an effective way. We teach how the use of scientific tools (EMF Meters, thermal scanners, tape and digital recorders) can aid in the photographic documentation of the spirits around us. We teach the advantages of digital photography, the usefulness of videography that incorporates valuable infra-red night vision, enhancing the spirit energy beyond what the human eye can see. We discovered not only the importance of night shot, infra-red video but also picking up voices from beyond through audio recording on the video camera during the filming.

We teach the valuable use of 35mm cameras, from the simple disposables to cameras with bells and whistles on a grander scale. Expensive isn't always best as it is not the camera but the person using the camera that makes the difference. This takes us to attitude.

A person who has a negative attitude while out in the field, will not find the same success in documenting than someone whose mind is open and free from negative emotions. Even having one negative person among a group going out to do an investigation can effect the success of all. This has been proven time after time with groups over the years. The most recent incident we experienced was in St. Augustine, Florida at a workshop held by Jeff Reynolds and Kris Mattson.

Jeff and Kris had many new people attending their workshop who came as skeptics, some closed minded and negative. One lady in particular was chosen, at random, to participate in the night investigation of the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, a place known to be haunted.

Dave and I got there a bit early and wandered around the building doing our thing while Jeff's equipment was being set up. It was peaceful and quiet inside and we got quite a bit on our digital cameras. As we made our way downstairs, still taking pictures, a woman stood in the outside doorway. She asked Dave a question about the investigation, her tone of voice was sharp, revealing a negative attitude that indicated she didn't really want to be there. When I heard her speaking, I felt myself tense in an automatic response to the negativity she projected. I felt very uncomfortable in her presence and expressed my feelings to Dave as we left.

It was later that we learned she was part of the investigation team but her attitude was so negative it distressed the rest of the group. They got little or nothing on film and video while she was present. Fortunately, the woman decided to leave early and once she was gone, the activity started to pick up. One negative person can make all the difference for a group of investigators which is something to remember whenever you plan to go out into the field.

We teach about life and afterlife. What you are on this physical plane is what you will be on the next plane of existence. If you are angry with unresolved issues here, you will take those issues with you into the next realm. If you want to anchor yourself in anger and discontent, DO NOT learn the meaning of "forgive and forget." Your misery will transcend with you. You can find yourself anchored like a ship in a port, going no farther until you work through the negative emotions and experiences that will haunt you until you do face them.

Believe it or not, the baggage you carry around inside, though you try to bury it, will manifest itself in a number of negative ways, the most prevalent being displays of anger, either verbal or physical. You can't outrun or hide from pent up negative emotions. The longer you suppress them, the stronger they become, taking the quality and enjoyment away from each day. In death they become anchors and though not evil, you have the makings for an angry spirit.

Try to remember that with each bump along life's road, everything happens for a reason. It is what you do with the hardships, the lessons we all have in life, that makes the difference. What we don't learn from the hardships will come around again until we learn how to deal with, learn from and use the knowledge gained through pain. "No pain, no gain." It is amazing how true that simple statement is.

As negative emotion can anchor us in death, we also have a flip side to this. Love can be an anchor also. This is something that we normally do not think about, love being a positive emotion. But we do need to consider this regarding those we have lost to death, as that positive emotion can hold their spirits to this plane, being an obsessive emotion.

When we sustain a loss, be it spouse, child, loved one or a dear friend, our loving them and missing them to extremes can be an anchor to their spirit. We grieve for ourselves, for our losses. Grief is healthy and normal, it is our expression of the pain we feel not having the person we loved so much, physically with us any longer. But to cling firmly to that person or to set up a shrine in their memory to keep them alive by our own desire, is not healthy and we can prevent them from going on by what we feel is love. But to the extreme we not only anchor them to this plane, we stop living ourselves.

We need to grieve, each in our way and in our own time frame, and we need to let go. There is a great paradox in dealing with the issue of death. To live our lives fully, we must come to terms with death and the fear of it. Our survival instinct gives root to our fear of death as it is the protective mechanism built into us as self-preservation. We are programmed into fight-or-flight. It is acquired by societal and parental learned programming. From an early age we are taught to be careful, to defend ourselves and to fear all the things we don't yet know about, out in the big bad world. This inadvertently programs us to fear death, though it is so automatic, we think little of it.

Stephen Levin says, "When death is not the enemy, then clarity, generosity and courage become the way of life. Death puts life into perspective. A great gift which is received in love and wisdom allows the clinging mind to dissolve so that nothing remains but truth. We become just the light entering the light."

Clinging to a loved one, though they have passed from the physical plane, is our obsessive fear of death and darkness beyond what we know. We can anchor their spirit, in terms of love but our fears of letting them go are what hold them to this plane. We have to love them enough to allow them to move on and allow ourselves to go on living our lives to the fullest. That is truly what love is all about. The same applies to love and loss in divorce. Divorce is like a death. It is the death of a relationship where the love has died somewhere along the way. Here too, we have to work through the grief and let it go, going forward with our lives.

Anger, hate, placing blame on another and holding them responsible for the death of a relationship is self-destructive. The negativity in all of that, hurts the other person, the people around them and destroys the opportunity give due to the loss. The hope of finding a life with another fades away as the negative emotion manifests itself in unacceptable ways. Until a person looks at the overall picture of what caused a relationship to die, setting pride aside, they never see the role they played in it all. How can people correct a problem if they deny it exists? How can they grieve a loss when filled with anger and bitterness? How can people see the door of opportunity open for them when they are blinded by negative emotion? They can't. They may find success in superficial ways but inside they have become stagnant. There is no further growth there.

A person cannot grow from harsh experiences they are given, if they do not learn from them. The most intelligent people I know, the most giving, loving and spiritual people I have met are those who have survived hardship and pain, working through the steps to recovery. It is opportunity, it awakens us to reality and it strengthens, if we allow it to. It redirects us to the way we are destined to go. Hardships and trials require our full attention. They not only offer positive qualities and opportunities, they put us in touch with our inner voice, with out souls.

In this modern day and age we live in deep division. Mind is separate from the body and spirituality is at odds with materialism. Tradition teaches that the soul lies midway between understanding and unconsciousness. It's instrument is neither the mind nor the body, but imagination. Fulfilling work, rewarding relationships, personal power and relief from symptoms are all gifts of the soul according to Thomas Moore in his book, Care of the Soul.

Our daily lives draw us into yearning for entertainment, power, intimacy, sexual fulfillment and material things that we seek to find in the right job, the right relationship, the right church or the right therapy. We strive to gather these things to us in great masses thinking quantity will satisfy our longing without thought of quality.

Caring for the soul speaks to the longings we feel and to the symptoms that drive us crazy, but it is not a path away from shadow or death. A soulful personality is complicated, multifaceted and shaped by both pain and pleasure, success and failure. A life lived soulfully is not without moments of darkness and periods of foolishness. Dropping the salvation fantasy frees us up to the possibility of self-knowledge and self-acceptance which are the very foundations of the soul. When someone sustains a loss, a major ending, everything that once held a place of importance, fades into oblivion. The focus changes from what we have to the reality of who we are.

It is my theory that at the time of loss, we unknowingly come face-to-face with the urgent needs of our own soul. We focus on our spirituality rather than our possessions. We run head-on into the reality of our own mortality, which until this time, we denied to ourselves that death would enter into the beautiful images we held in our minds of what our lives would be.

It is a turning point, a transition that when recognized, can lead to harmony and balance within us. Life changes the spirit within us. Our soul is not something that cares for itself, it requires full attention. The less attention we give our soul, the more we strive to fill our inner longings with things outside of our inner yearnings.

The pattern here is an endless cycle of frustration. Working harder to gain more but the real need goes unacknowledged. The soul is not ego. Care of the soul is not solving the puzzle of life, quite the opposite. It is appreciation of the paradoxical mysteries that blend light and darkness into the grandeur of what human life can be.

Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart and personal substance. We throw experiences into one of two categories, good ones and bad ones. Looking closer, every experience has value even those we see as negative and undesirable.

An old Chinese Proverb tells us that when climbing stairs, each step is important, but to get to the next step you must go beyond, letting go of the step you are standing on. Growing old is one of the ways the soul nudges itself into attention to the spiritual aspect of life. You can see this clearly in older folks every day, everywhere.

When we face life's greatest challenges, our desire is to wish for the former conditions to return. We want things like they were, or as Carl Jung put it, "regressive restoration of personae." The soul is not neutral, it is the energy, the source of our lives, who we are. It is the essence of who we are that transcends death.

This and so much more, is what makes up the second part of our Home Study Course. The material is essential for a well-rounded, educated Paranormal Investigator. You need to fully understand the spiritual side of human life as it applies to what happens at death. Not only will you gain value in ghost research, you will also have a deeper understanding to offer those who need the knowledge to progress through a time of grief. We not only strive to understand death and life after, but to reach out to help the living come to a more profound understanding of what is happening.

In learning about life, we learn about death. In learning about death and ghosts, we learn about life. The knowledge gained are like mirror images of each other. I watched my husband die for two years so I've been there and done that. I learned about loss and grief, from scratch and found myself doing it alone. When I lost my husband, my job, my home and had to sell my belongings for food, I had hit rock bottom. I didn't like it down there. It was dark and lonely. I didn't have much left, but I had to ask myself what I was going to do with what I did have. The most valuable asset I had left was knowledge gained from the pain of loss. I had no idea where to begin to use it to help others.

Time was what helped me find the answer. With time came direction and more knowledge and experience. I learned that I would be of no value if I didn't face my pain and work through it, so I chose to learn all I could and in turn, share that knowledge to help others understand. In looking back, I can see that life and death go hand in hand, we all live and we all die, but death in our society is covered over and not talked about.

It is no wonder society has looked down on the thought of ghosts. They look down on the whole notion of death, yet whatever lives also dies. It is as natural as birth, yet we rejoice and celebrate birth and avoid the thoughts about life ending. But it is the essence of who we are, the personality, emotions and intelligence, that live on.

Love survives the grave and those we lose to physical death remain with us in memory and heart. What they gave us while in this life, lives on through us. We grieve for their lack of physical presence but we have documented evidence that they come back to check on us, especially on holidays and special occasions. We can feel them near when our hearts ache for reasons only they would understand if they were still here. They come to us in dreams to give us comfort and assurance that all will be fine. They are never very far away at all. That bond of love does not die.

In making the connection between life and the afterlife, we established the IGHS to share the knowledge we have gained over the years. What good is knowledge if it is not shared? How can we learn if all we have is the normal, structured, text book information? That does nothing to explain paranormal events taking place all over the world, everyday. We stepped out from tradition and shared the knowledge we gained. Finally, after centuries of secrecy, people can tell of their experiences without the fear of ridicule, condemnation or being locked in a padded room. Not only that they now have a chance to learn about ghosts and understand why they are here. They can learn to document them in scientific ways and share the experiences as further knowledge gained.

We come to Gettysburg to learn and to document. The battlefields are filled with ongoing stories of soldiers still fighting, still suffering through the horrors of the Civil War. What better place to learn than right in the heart of where the fighting took place, that gave us the freedom we have today. We come in reverence and in awe of the men who gave their lives for the cause they so firmly believed in, not only for them but for the generations to come. We come to discover why they remain, fighting a war that ended so very long ago.

Dave and I decided to put this in the newsletter due to the many requests we had for printed copies. The material was based on my Doctoral Thesis which we then based a good portion of the Home Study Course on for Paranormal Investigator. We both feel this to be an important aspect of our ongoing research and connects both life and afterlife, making sense of the complexity of both. A portion of this material was taken from Care of the Soul, by Thomas Moore. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about the essence of who we are.

Sharon Gill, Ph.D.
Gettysburg Ghost Conference
March 31, 2001

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