• James Tam

Monologue of a Ghost

In memory of Vaari, and those who had gone before him

A stubborn ghost's otherworldly insight into existence, life, and death

ALL morning, there was an intermittent murmur in my head: No te asustes … estoy aquí… I didn’t understand what it meant, and had no idea where it came from, only suspected it to be Latin or something.

I knew it wasn’t auditory hallucination though. I was used to hearing voices, you see, nearly every day, for years. Normally, I knew what was speaking. Not being able to sense the origin this time felt uncanny. Even more strangely, I found the voice calming, soothing, and — for want of a less abused word — ‘loving’. Yet, at the same time, it made me melancholy, even a little sad. I wasn’t easily emotional; but it was my eightieth birthday, and last day of work. The complex feeling is understandable, even expected, I told myself.

Finally, after fifty years……

When I joined the national park as a ranger, people lined up to retrieve money from human tellers rather than machines. Mobile phone was still science fiction. The world had changed much since then, so had the park, so had I. Or had I? Perhaps I hadn’t, that’s why I noticed.

After official retirement fifteen years ago, I had stayed on as ‘freelance consultant’, bypassing a few employment guidelines. That’s what the title ‘freelance consultant’ is for. But the arrangement couldn’t go on forever. I couldn’t go on forever.

For decades, I had told friends that I’ll work till the last day, and ‘predicted’ to die at eighty — jokingly, of course, but also sincerely. Eighty is a good age to go according to my observation — and I was a keen observer. Most old folks seemed sufficiently healthy and independent up to about that age. After that, the pain of longevity becomes increasingly undeniable. The downhill ride accelerates.

Ironically, now that I was eighty, I had defied my own statistical assumption. I remained as fit as most ‘youngsters’ in their fifties, requiring no long-term medication. My secret? I avoided the doctor unless I was truly very sick, and I seldom was. My blood pressure and other miscellaneous indices were unknown, especially to myself. I never checked them. I tuned in to their combined effect of life instead. I let my heart beat according to its own mood rather than timing it against textbook standards. Three times a day, I meditated to connect with another world. I talked to old trees, flowers, birds, cats, squirrels, and the wolves, especially the wolves. Sometimes, they talked back. They were my only family. I had never felt the need for a human one. But who will I talk with after today?

In the last couple of years, my only remaining task at the park was to feed Gabriel and his pack. When the Wolf Research Centre — partly sponsored by the Spanish Government and some conservationist association — was established fifteen years ago, the manager couldn’t find anyone cheap enough to do the job. I didn’t know anything about wolves, but that wasn’t a requirement.

Surprisingly, the Centre soon became very popular, attracting tens of thousands of tourists every year. Surprising because most of the time, there was nothing to see. Tourists bought tickets to watch Iberian wolves from a circular observatory in the centre of the two-hectare grounds, accessible through a tunnel. The room was fitted with panoramic one-way glass walls which were mirrors on the outside. The wolves could not see the tourists, but sensed the presence of virtually identical humanoids, including the position of each and every one of them. The tourists, on the other hand, could hardly spot the animals. They blended in perfectly with the long grass and shrubs, visible only to experienced eyes. From a tourist’s point of view, the Wolf Centre was utterly uneventful, and should have been disappointing. But selfie-taking visitors had each other for background. The must-see wolves, mostly unseen, were, well, not seen. Feeding time was exceptionally sensational. They got to see me on the grounds unprotected, tossing carcasses to the mysterious canids, and somehow found it ‘exciting’. Today, chicken was on the menu. But……

Wolves intrigue the human mind more than any other animals. They’ve been feared, loathed, admired, worshipped, hunted, and imitated by humans since the two species first met millennia ago. To me, they’re neither gods nor devils, just clever and spiritual. I talked to them nearly from the onset. They seldom replied, but always listened. Unlike humans, they never commented on things they don’t know. They understand a lot more than the centre biologist conjectured. With time, I could walk right into their confined territory to feed them like family dogs. The manager objected at first, making a big fuss, citing safety concerns. He soon shut up and turned a blind eye when tourists started forming long lines before feeding time.

We — the wolves and I — could hear the faint hum of humans behind thick glass partition. They could also just hear the wolves gorging. It sounds scary — excellent for the box office. Sometimes, I fed them from my hand, which inevitably generated an emphatic synchronised wow behind the mirrors.

I quickly became known as the wolf whisperer. Little did they know that I ‘whispered’ to many things: a few knotty old trees, and all kinds of floras and faunas. But I never whispered a word about that to humans. I didn’t want my ‘sanity’ examined by crazy people. Pete was the only one I occasionally let on, obscurely. I knew he would understand one day, but not just yet. Even to him, I made it sound like a joke when I relayed my inter-species conversations.

In the late afternoon, the baritone voice continued hypnotically: No te asustes…no te asustes…estoy aquí… I still had no idea where the mantra came from and what it meant. I made a note to search for its meaning later, if I could spell the words correctly from the sound. I’ll have lots of time to research useless information after today.

First thing first. I went to Pete’s shed. He was in charge of all uncategorisable chores, one of which was feed preparation for the wolf centre.

‘Hey, buddy, you’ll have to feed them starting tomorrow.’

‘Yup, yet another miscellaneous item on my job description.’ He took off his work gloves, and gave me a big hug, smelling of grass today. He was a trained biologist, top marks and everything, but had chosen to be a jack-of-all-trades at the park. To the right person, it’s a dream job: independent, close to nature, very few human colleagues, nobody to time his lunch and toilet breaks, and using both hands and brain to make a living.

‘Would them puppies eat without you?’

‘Believe me, they won’t miss a single meal. No respectable wolf would.’

‘It’s going to be a feast. There’s a long line since noon.’

‘I saw that.’

‘All the directors will be there too. Gonna be a bash afterwards. Are you giving a grand finale for the big boys?’

‘I might gallop a bit on Gabriel’s back.’

‘Haha, sure! Never know, they might extend your contract!’ He laughed like a child. A happy man. Extending my contract had obviously become a joke. ‘Have fun. See you at the party. Even I’m invited, imagine!’

I smiled, and punched him on his strong arm. ‘See you then. No crying. Promise!’

‘We’ll miss you, old man. All of us.’ He looked about, as if seeking endorsement from the surroundings, before fetching me six chicken carcasses.

I proceeded to the double gates of the grounds. They needed a new coat of paint, but nothing’s ever urgent in the park, a charming and annoying fact of life which I had long submitted to. No longer my worry anyway, job for the next generation. Hope they’ll get rid of this yucky green. They painted everything green — a phoney, ridiculous, artificial shade of green — to highlight ‘environmental friendliness’.

No te asustes…no te asustes…estoy aquí…

After closing the outer gate, I opened the inner one, three chickens in each hand, gripped by their skinny legs. They always smelled a little of fresh death in this weather, quite obnoxious to my vegetarian self even after all those years. Today, they felt cooler than usual.

I sensed excitement building up behind the mirrors. I never had the vanity of a star performer. Actually, I was often mildly irritated by the audience’s simplistic enthusiasm. All they wanted was the spectacle of an old man throwing carcasses at a bunch of hungry carnivores for social media. What a pity. Wolves are far more fascinating than just a pack of noisy eaters. But even the centre biologist and vet were not really interested in the animals. They saw only fur and muscles and teeth, completely missing the other half. Very unfortunate. Now I know for sure they were also missing out half of themselves, and everything else in life. Anyway, while inside wolf grounds, I rarely thought about the hidden presence of spectators.

It was unusually quiet.

Normally, led by Gabriel, they would come out to greet me for their meal. The concept of Alpha Male is a human invention, valid only for wolves in captivity. Gabriel wouldn’t have bothered with ‘leadership’ had they been living in the wild. However, in this relatively small prison, they needed a head inmate. But today…

Ha, here he is!

Gabriel emerged from a thick tuft of grass, and walked majestically towards me. Alpha or not, he was a natural leader. He looked at me with a kind and loving intensity I had not seen before. Gabriel, you okay? I say goodbye today. I greeted him mentally. Wolves don’t understand human languages any more than cats and dogs and hamsters do. Talking out loud to them is just commonly accepted idiocy. But they can communicate mentally if we are sincere and focused.

One by one, Gabriel’s family came out, followed by others. They all gave me a similar ‘good bye’ look.

So, you know! Is this a surprise party?

I tossed them two chickens. They just looked at me, and didn’t move. I felt a lump in my throat.

Hey, all parties must end one day. Don’t be sad.

‘No te asustes, estoy aquí.’

It’s you Gabriel! I should have guessed!

I suddenly understood the Spanish words. He was saying ‘Don’t be afraid. I’m here.’

Afraid of what? Why aren’t you eating?

I was still holding four chickens in my hand.

Gabriel leaped up to embrace me. I let go of the birds and hugged him. Rough fur rubbed against my face. The rest of the pack joined him. They felt warm, so wonderfully warm. I was happy, blissful. I could die for a moment like this.

In the news, they called it one of the grisliest accidents ever.

Before a screaming crowd who had each paid twenty bucks to watch wolves eat dead birds, Gabriel and his family ate me. On the other side of the glass wall, they screamed hysterically — oh my God! oh fuck! oh fuck! Two women fainted. One of the directors vomited all over himself and suffered a heart-attack. All the while, most of the shrieking witnesses managed to keep videoing. My grand finale was instantly all over social media, violating every community standard. The few junior journalists present secretly thought it one of their luckiest career days so far.

As usual, everyone saw only half the picture. It wasn’t what it appeared to be. How things look are nearly always misleading, distracting observers from the essence.

Engulfed by a glowing warmth, I hugged and patted Gabriel and the rest of the pack one by one. I felt nothing but peace and contentment. In decades of meditation practice, I had experienced many different sensations, but never such perfect tranquility. I walked through a bright light — strong and boundless, but soothing to the eyes. Gabriel accompanied me part way, tail high up. Then he stopped: ‘No te asustes. Adiós mi amigo.’

‘Thank you, my friend. Thank you for everything. Farewell.’

He turned and left.

There are legends about wild animals abruptly finishing off old parents or pack members, knowing that their time was up. I have now experienced it firsthand. I also understand how they knew.


Since departing the human world, I’ve gained new perspectives about life, or, more precisely, angles which give a more complete picture of existence. Some foggily impossible ideas which bothered me when alive suddenly seem almost self-evident from the vantage point of the dead. Sounds intriguing? Indeed it is, absolutely worth dying for in my humble opinion.

These revelations make me feel delusively ‘enlightened’ and excited, a bit overly excited, I suspect. I fully realise how laughably illusive these feelings are, and that ego-driven ‘selflessness’ carries unpleasant consequences. But just like humans, alas, I simply can’t help it. Perhaps it’s meant to be, with underlying karmic causes presently beyond my ken. Regardless, these discoveries have given rise to a sense of mission I’ve never experienced before, prompting me to hang around for as long as I can, in order to share these insights with you. Hang around where? you might ask. I’ll explain momentarily. But I can tell you right away that voluntary suspension in a phantom state of self-righteousness isn’t easy. It takes enormous energy — all the energy I can summon — involving multiple risks, and is highly unstable. I have no idea how long I can sustain.

So, let’s get on with it.

Oh, before I begin, a word on diction. Though I no longer belong to the pitiful cluster of biomass called mankind, you’ll find me speaking as if I were still one of you. A bit of postmortem nostalgia perhaps, very ironic nonetheless. When alive, I often demonstrated my disappointment with the human race by referring to it in the third person pronoun, highlighting my defiant sense of non-belonging. Now that I finally do not belong, I feel a sentimental concern for its wellbeing and long-term prospects; I’m delaying my own pressing after-trip to convey this message to you. Believe me, it’s totally unexpected, a huge surprise to me.

Since I’m dead, but still a presence, feel free to call me a ghost, spectre, paranormal phenomenon, whatever. I won’t be offended. But it’s time that humans stop giving misleading labels to things they don’t have a clue. Eons ago, Confucius explained the importance of naming things honestly and intelligently; eons later, people are doing the exact opposite, in the name of marketing and politics. Specious names are not only meaningless, they may also distract discovery. Imagine, if the composition of beancurd were unknown, calling it Chicken Bone Custard will mislead investigation, at least in the beginning. If we don’t know what something is, why not just let it be x like mathematicians do until we know enough?

Anyway, if you bump into a manifestation of my shimmering energy field, you might pee your pants, then convince yourself that I’m just an illusion, or seek help from an equally illusional doctor or priest who doesn’t know any more than you do. Well, don’t worry. I have neither the intention nor energy to make any such appearances.

This other side I currently am, or holding on to, is a complementary phenomenon of your world. For the purpose of this monologue, I’ll call it the netherworld. Without it, there is no reality as you know it, including your good self. It is of existential relevance to humanity. Yes, it’s that big a deal, hence my eagerness to pass on the message; I see ample evidence that something this fundamental and critical is increasingly being neglected, deliberately rejected, even ridiculed by most people. Mind-boggling. We are cartoon figures frantically sawing at the branch we sit on, humming away triumphantly to show our power over the damned tree.

Before dissecting the netherworld, I should first clarify a few popular fallacies. Far too many widely accepted (or simply believed) assumptions are false, infecting the minds of many, making them feel good for terrible reasons. The truth is — okay, the relative truth is — on the other hand, avoided, denounced, even sneered at. Human evolution is evidently just a process of change, not necessarily improvement.

Knowledge is one such misconception. It’s taken for granted that knowledge increases with time and experience. Once something is known, we presuppose, it would remain known provided it has been recorded and passed on. Known things don’t become unknown if we just sit on it. And the more we know, the smarter we are. Well, that’s simply not true.

Look at our information age. Nearly everything’s archived, but the prodigious amount of indexed information has not improved knowledge or wisdom. Quite the opposite, the average person has become more biased and confused. It’s not a coincidence that there hasn’t been any real breakthrough in science since the appearance of computers and data-base. Perhaps over-categorisation and superfluous descriptions have weakened intuition and restricted imagination. Perhaps an insane abundance of data discourages focused contemplation and penetration…

Similarly, as we think we know a lot about the physical world, we become more ignorant about the other side. We now understand less about the netherworld than our illiterate primal forebears did. They were much more aware of their own limitations, and respectful of the unknown. Nowadays, the unknown is summarily dismissed if the clues — however perceptible — disagree with scientific ‘laws’ postulated with extremely limited observations, or are political incorrect. The netherworld doesn’t officially exist in mainstream knowledge. Mass denial has caused an alarming regression in mankind’s existential consciousness, though nobody’s alarmed.

As I understand it now, the material world and the netherworld are existentially interdependent. Without the netherworld and beyond, we — you, ladies and gentlemen — won’t exist. Conversely, without your mundane world, the netherworld will diminish proportionally. The material world and its counterpart cannot exist independently from each other, not even for an infinitesimal instant. They are like the two sides of a coin. They are — because of each other. Without one, the other is not only lonely and unviable, but non-existent.

Modern humans are increasingly dismissive about the other side due to a blindness developed from an obsession with the material facade. Whatever we can’t see or imagine or conjecture with our severely limited faculties is now branded unreasonable, unscientific, supernatural, exiled to the realm of superstition. Blind hubris is mistaken as confidence, and narrow-mindedness objectivity — self-laudable attributes of the ‘human spirit’. We are like someone who spends too much time admiring his own image in the mirror. Gradually, he forgets, dismisses, suspects, fears, and loathes his unseen and slimy internal organs. That attitude, though pervertedly amusing to a detached observer, is not good for his long-term health.

More pathetically, we don’t know much about the physical world either. In the twenty-first century, overloaded with theories and equipment, we know at most ten percent — probably orders of magnitude less — of the observable universe. The rest is, duh, dark matter, dark energy, dark stuff, unknown, unknowable. This is how ‘knowledgeable’ humans are about the big picture today. The impression that we know nature is an exaggeration of astronomical proportion. Further worse, explorations are now restricted to a ‘scientific’ playbook only nominally more accommodating than the good old Bible. Thinking beyond the rules are heretical, no longer punishable by death, but not eligible for recognition and research money either. Proud and gung-ho individuals even threaten to conquer nature without knowing what it is.

As a result of this funny approach, we know less and less about life and death than wise folks did thousands of years ago. With impressively unfounded confidence, we have systemically transformed ourselves into a lost life-form on a fragile planet, blithely and proudly trotting down an unlit suicidal path paved with abstract sufferings, hastening collective demise.


Mind you, I don’t have all the answers just because I’m now a talkative ghost — far from it.

Nobody — with or without a body — does. Not even the Buddha, or Jesus, or his Dad, or Allah, or any of the trans-dimensional teachers or prophets or demons knows everything. The Mystery is infinite. And infinity is infinity, no full-stop. Gods and Buddhas may be prodigiously wiser than you, a stupidly arrogant human, or me, a stupidly stubborn ghost; they can travel without speed limit or obstacles (something which I can also do now, by the way), and project visions across the span of time. But they can’t see the end of infinity, or it wouldn’t be infinity, would it?

Nevertheless, over here at my present state, without the encumbrance and distraction of a physical presence, I can contemplate the fathomless mystery from a different angle, one which is complementary to yours. I can see a more complete picture if I manage to retain what I had learned and observed in the physical world. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pique your interest in thinking the way we not-think about why and where we are, and what next. To be or not to be? Ha, what a simple-minded question. Sorry, Mr. Hamlet, you can’t just decide to switch off your troubles with death. It’s not that easy, Your Highness.

Many will find my conjecture of the netherworld too farfetched. And it is now fashionable to dismiss anything that can’t be directly perceived, as if objective reality depends on human recognition to exist. That’s monstrously absurd, of course, but regarded reasonable in modern Homo sapiens circles.

The afterworld has been referred to by many names: Heaven, Paradise, Hell, Land of Eternal Bliss, higher dimensions, the Dao, Taiji, Nirvana, Big Void, or, without registering its metaphysical nature, singularity, and the quantum state. These terms are not necessarily equivalent, nor by any means referring to the same aspect of existence. Plus Laozi had most accurately but discouragingly told us that anything we call the Dao is certainly not the Dao itself. The ultimate mystery is beyond the expression of human languages. However, contemplating these various postulations helps open our eyes to…well, something.

In the short history of humanity, a number of benign spirits had tried to tell us what that something is, and our ancients had listened carefully. But as soon as they passed on, their teachings would be twisted by human-centric interpretations, hijacked by religious institutions, distorted for political purposes, or tainted with superstition. Perhaps degradation with time is natural and inevitable, but there’s a more perplexing aspect to mankind’s wisdom devolution.

Our primitive forebears had little idea how big the world is out there and beyond, but were humbled by their own imagination and vulnerability. Comparing with them, modern humans, thanks to science, do have a quantitative appreciation of how indescribably insignificant we are. In the context of our rudimentary model of the universe, Earth, the one and only petite planet on which we depend for life, is metaphorically less than one grain of sand in all the beaches in the world. How anyone so infinitesimal could possibly fantasise a special meaning to his own existence, or that the great unknown is supposed to ‘make sense’ to his mediocre faculties, is a mega-mystery.

More absurdly, those who insist on ascribing special meaning to human life cannot even say with minimal coherence what a meaningful life entails. With palpable moral angst, they search for something they don’t know, and cannot envisage or define. If that is not derangement, it must at least be acute stupidity.

I tend to get unduly worked up when thinking about human foolishness. My apologies. Better return to the main purpose of my visitation. I want to tell you a little about the netherworld and the Yin side, so you know where you stand.

Many people have heard of Yin and Yang, but thought no more of it than easily observable dualities, or the brandname of some fortune cookies. Yin and Yang is a fundamental tenet of most ancient Chinese philosophies. As said, the ancients everywhere knew much more about life and death than modern Earthlings do. Superficially, the Yin Yang philosophy tells us everything has a counterpart: day and night; male and female; positive and negative, and so on. Without one, the other won’t even exist conceptually. If daylight were constant and continuous, there’ll be no such words as day and night. These are macro dualities we can easily grasp.

At the subatomic level, every particle has its counterpart in charge and spin, somewhere out there. According to physicists, particles and anti-particles annihilate each other when they meet. Annihilation is a scary word. In reality, they just become one again, in the form of light, back to the origin where Yin and Yang began their separate but entangled journeys. Light, so common and fundamental, remains one of the biggest mysteries in science. Is it a wave? Or particle? Or both? Or ultimately nothing? When the Hebrew God let there be light, was he suggesting something more than turning it on like we do when entering a basement workshop? Why did Jesus call himself the light of the world rather than, say, water which is similarly essential? Did the Buddha call us Light People from another world just to tell a farfetched story?

Next question: where do Yin and Yang come from?

Ha, from basically nothing! though nothing implies the existence of something. We are limited by human words after all.

The ultimate origin has been called the Dao; God (before he was transmogrified into a bearded, suspicious, and tempestuous old white man); Nirvana; the Big Void; singularity, etcetera. They are different ways to help us contemplate the perfect equilibrium from which Yin and Yang emerge, and to which they eventually return.

I picture the Big Void as the perfect superimposition of a boundless negative and its positive. When seamlessly overlapping, we see nothing. There is nothing. Upon the slightest local disturbance, two equal but opposite phenomena emerge. Your physical universe and its anti-universe are one such duality pair. My flickering netherworld is the transitional interface in between.

At the scale of Dao, or God, the tiniest shift is colossal. There are infinite Yang worlds out there, all issued forth from the Big Void, with a corresponding Yin counterpart — equal and opposite. The Yang worlds include Heaven and Hell and Land of Bliss and our utterly insignificant but greatly abused Earth, and a myriad of heavens which the Buddha collectively called Chiliocosm, or something like that. Material worlds are relatively rigid and discrete, bound by irreversible time and unreachable space. Sending a robot to Mars is much less monumental than a bunch of ambitious slugs having covered the first few metres in their sworn conquest of the Himalayas. But it makes man proud, and more sure about himself than ever.

As we approach the Yin domain proper — the anti-universe — we ‘experience’ a transitional state of fluid abstraction, characterised by quantum consciousness and pervasive equality. It’s the netherworld I currently reside. All beings — plants, animals, humans — are equal in netherworld, sharing a common consciousness, like users with equal access rights to a cloud database. They could ‘communicate’ freely if need to, but it’d be no different from a private thought. And just like us, they don’t always understand everything that comes to mind. I had long been aware of the consciousness and communication capabilities of plants and animals, but didn’t know how to express it beyond psychic sensitivity. I admit feeling childishly vindicated in having confirmed this upon death.

You may see the netherworld as a common conduit linking up all the Yin and Yang domains. When one expires in a material world, his spirit or soul enters the netherworld. From there, it may get recycled back to where he came from, which is actually uncommon, or spun off to one of the other karmic options, including featureless Heaven and blazing Hell if these horrible places had been lodged in his subconscious through indoctrination or past life memories, contributing to a collective ‘reality’. Forget about our Yin twin the anti-universe for now, lest it blow your minds. Just know that everything over there exactly opposite to your ‘reality’ — physically and spiritually. Some scientists conjecture it to be on the other side of the Big Bang, the assumed instant of genesis infested with haphazard fudge-factors. In any event, we won’t get to see our anti-selves without mutual annihilation, so, better just let it be if you’re basically pro-life.

Suffice to say that a spirit’s fate is determined by a complex and precise karmic formula, not alterable by wishful thinking. Atonement prayers are as meaningful as sending a letter to the credit card company to plead debt forgiveness, promising to be frugal in the future.

Karma isn’t as bizarre as it sounds. Repeat it enough times, and you’ll find it familiar, like gravity, something no less bizarre if you care to think about it. Look at the material world. Every single particle in the universe follows an inevitable path set into motion from the very first instant — Big Bang or not — picosecond by picosecond, colliding and changing lanes and switching partners inevitably and precisely as fated. Why would we — a hundred percent made of the same stuff — be different?

I’ve mentioned I once seemed able to communicate with plants and animals, especially the wolves, though they didn’t whisper back all their dinner plans to me. Now I know we actually ‘talked’ through our common sensitivity to the netherworld.

Contacts between the material world and the netherworld, though dwindling, have never stopped. There are a number of ‘regular’ channels.

The first is initiated by folks with ‘supernatural’ power.

See what I mean about misleading labelling? A lousy name can turn a natural instinctual power of man ‘supernatural’, giving the impression of fantasy and illusion no matter how extensively it has been observed and documented throughout the ages by monks and wizards and scholars and shamans and scientists. Homo sapiens hasn’t yet realised that it has no say on what is, or isn’t, natural. Knowing how to participate in nature once again would be a big leap forward for our rapidly regressing species.

Supernatural or not, these mediums can proactively seek or receive signals from the netherworld. Truly gifted ones live a double life, fuzzily straddling both realms with glassy eyes. To clueless observers in the material world, they are weirdos, witches, wizards, saints, shamans, mystics, savants… Depending on packaging and presentation skills and the times, they may be respected, feared, worshipped, locked up, dismissed, marginalised, barbecued, or promoted as entertainers. I was a vague and obscure example.

St. Francis of Assisi was a star-like specimen. Do you know his story?

He was born in 1181 into a super rich family, and died when he was forty-five. In his twenties, he rebelled against wealth and developed a taste for poverty. He often hid in deep mountains for weeks on end to pray and meditate, and to chat with wild beasts whom he rightly regarded mankind’s equals. He famously convinced the wolf of Gubbio to stop attacking the locals in return for food. He also preached to birds instead of the dozing faithful, and thought so hard about Jesus’ crucifixion that he developed his personal deadly stigmata. Had he studied Buddhism also, he would have been aware of the relationship between mind and matter, and the possibility of psychosomatic infections.

Was Francis genuine? God knows. I only know there was nothing ‘supernatural’ about his stories, and Pope Gregory IX, a mean and suspicious fellow who founded the Papal Inquisition, believed and canonised him.

Eastern mystics who had ‘opened’ their ‘third eyes’ could also login to the netherworld, skipping over Earthly space-time, seeing things nobody believed but eventually proved true. I used to wonder how the ancients discovered then invisible features such as acupuncture meridians, thousands of years before high-tech means verified their physical presence. Now I know. The answer is simple, or not so simple: they saw it with their third-eyes.

Though witches are no longer put to the fire these days, they keep a low profile to avoid getting thrown into an asylum without medical insurance. Having ‘supernatural’ abilities often invites suspicion or derision at best, persecution at worst. After all, lunacy is nothing more than a deviation from the behavioural pattern of the masses — a collection of people who don’t know what they’re doing. Every now and then, some lunatics — such as those who talk to plants — may feel vindicated by contemporary researches suggesting the possibility of vegetative consciousness. Unfortunately, these findings are promptly tucked away at dusty dark corners of gigantic libraries. And to add confusion to mystery, among genuine psychics are many more charlatans. Such is humanity.

The second kind of contact involves real ghosts — spooky, scary, nasty ones.

They are aggrieved phantoms stuck with unmitigated anger or injustice. They can’t let go, and are obsessed with wreaking vengeance. They usually direct their ire at specific targets in the mundane world, trying to be as disturbing as they possibly can, ugly as hell, in order to keep tragedies alive. In extreme cases, they may possess their subjects, or use an ill-fated bystander to effect revenge. But it takes immense spiritual energy to become this type of phantoms, hence their rarity.

Finally, there are wandering souls like myself who for some maddening reason can’t just let go of the human world.

I’m delaying my onward journey to stay in touch with mankind for a bit longer, though ‘a bit longer’ here is in fact a meaningful stretch in your earthly time warp. Right now, I’m hanging onto my nether-way with tremendous willpower, gently possessing a host — I prefer the more respectful term medium — at your end to relay my messages, rewarding him with the illusion of inspiration as a result. This may sound like hacking fun, but it’s in fact exhausting, requiring enormous concentration on my part. Had I a head still, it might ache quite badly. I compare my present endeavour with a trained athlete navigating a raging rapid, manoeuvring between slippery big rocks. I had practised meditation for decades when alive. Otherwise, maintaining clarity and steadiness in this flustering twilight zone would be virtually impossible. Sorry if I sound like boasting; I’m just honestly stating a fact of death.

Most spirits transiting the netherworld don’t have this kind of power. Normally, they don’t even realise that they’re dead. To the average soul, death is a bright alluring light which it follows trancelike. Terminal sufferings have abruptly ceased, replaced by a soothing serenity and nostalgic visions of dead friends and families, smiling, welcoming his arrival. But as usual, happy moments don’t last. Just you wait.

Nasty characters are also relieved from physical pain upon their last exhalation. An intense anxiety and a fathomless sense of loneliness immediately take over from within, like a sub-zero chill emanating from the bone marrow, etching karmic debit notes on their subconscious for future settlement in their next lives. Everything will be continued. No debt’s ever forgotten, no matter how trivial.

In time, or no time, the transition spirit, regardless of merits, would be swept on by karmic forces, free-falling into a scrambled dream, timeless yet pressing, biting…

It’s a highly unsettling experience. That’s reincarnation for you. Perhaps that’s why even folks with a super lousy life instinctively yearn to live on. What about getting out? Well, I hate to be discouraging, but ultimate obliteration is mere wishful thinking, albeit a popular one. Each and every particle in existence must follow its uniquely complex fate. To assume human consciousness — origin and nature unknown — to somehow disband with the molecular body in a puff, or splat, to be no more ever after, is just another audacious example of human exceptionalism.

All spirits are bound by karma. High-end gods and bodhisattvas are no exception, though they have a light debt load and a strong sense of mission to help survive tumultuous recycling without completely losing clarity. Way below them in the spiritual hierarchy, barely strong enough to manage a brief transitory suspension in netherworld, are a variety of dawdling entities like myself. Most of us are human whisperers of one kind or another.

Some people whisper to horses, cajoling them into galloping backwards. Some spirits whisper to humans, turning them into savants and geniuses by hacking into their brainwaves, turning them into insightful mediums. But not all horses listen to whispers. Similarly, not all humans are receptive to insights and inspirations; a nominal degree of spiritual disposition is required. Such human subjects are becoming harder and harder to find.

Anyway, inspirational communications remain by far the most common connection between the materialistic Yang world and the netherworld. The word inspiration in Chinese — Ling Gan — literally sensing the spirit, is for once pointing in the right direction, but gradually losing its original meaning.

Gifted artists and scientists draw creativity and insights from whispering spirits all the time unwittingly. They never know what the next word or musical note or brush stroke or solution would be — then it happens. The famous German chemist August Kekulé reported in 1890 that he discovered the molecular ring structure of benzene in a dream. But dreams are dreams, the credit goes to the dreamer. Revealing dreams, true or not, are no more than amusing anecdotes.

Regrettably, public attention tends to make mediums overly happy, becoming uptight about themselves and their ‘gifts’, thereby losing the connection. Re-tuning through meditation and reflection — or just take a goddamned break! — would often restore inspiration. But some mediums, more common among artists than scientists, opt to turn to hallucinants to keep ‘inspiration’ flowing, to stay on-line with a source they’re not aware of. It’s like desperately dialling a random number after the phone line broke on an engaging conversation, in order to resume hearing voices. Hello?

Once in a long while, a medium would be clearheaded and honest enough to tell the truth, at the risk of being ridiculed.

Srinivasa Ramanujan of India is a famous recent example. Born in 1887, he had practically no formal training in math. Barely a teenager, he solved mathematical problems then considered impossible, and proceeded to become a college dropout. Ignored by established mathematicians in India and Britain, as would be expected, it took a while for his genius to be noticed by a Professor Hardy from Cambridge. During his short tenure in Britain, sponsored by Professor Hardy, Ramanujan compiled thousands of original and highly unconventional results, some of which are still being studied and investigated today, a century after his death in 1920, at the age of thirty-two.

A less noted but well recorded fact is that Ramanujan clearly and unequivocally credited his impossible genius to goddess Namagiri Thayar. She reportedly told him some math every night in his dreams. He would jot them down in the morning, and more or less call it a day. Since he was too big a phenomenon to be concurrently labelled insane, the world said ‘well, okay…’ and moved on. One day, when mankind has fully deciphered Ramanujan’s work, some scholars believe, we may understand a lot more about the world and untie some dead-knots in science. Unfortunately, humanity has drifted even further away from its inspiration sources since Ramanujan.

These days, plants and animals are closer to the spiritual world than humans. In fact, the lower the animal appears in our eye, the more spiritual it may be. They are more attuned to their quantum states, with sensitivities which are becoming extinct among humans. Remember, here in the netherworld, plants and us are equal, so are wolves and midges. Biologists have offered molecular explanations on how a teeny midge senses our presence, flies stealthily towards an exposed flashy part, lands imperceptibly, sucks greedily, then leaves behind a deeply itchy bump. More amazingly, it senses our vicious intention to kill for a spareable spot of blood, and takes off in the last hairy moment. These spooky functions, embodied in a wee dot, are supposedly governed by biochemical pathways which are in turn governed by nothing. Well, whatever. It takes more than mechanical intelligence to figure out which is fantasy and which is reality, especially a reality which defies artificial measurement.

These lifeforms have in fact maintained better contact with the netherworld by staying close to their quantum state. They sense, not think. They know, not analyse.

Once upon a time, man did both sensing and thinking. That’s how we got ahead. But we now think sensing primitive and intuition suspicious. Gradually, even thinking is becoming unfashionable, kind of elitist, disdainful and snobbish. Furthermore, modern ‘thinking’ must be kept within institutionalised framework, or deemed unacceptable. One may twist, bend, or fudge if necessary, provided intellectual doctoring is done within stipulated rules to appear ‘objective’ and ‘scientific’. This voluntary constriction of the mind has dulled our senses and curtailed instincts, taking us further away from the netherworld and our original nature.

Any material world drifting too far from its Yin counterpart will lose balance and wobble out of equilibrium. Eventually, like all extreme conditions, it will backfire in self-destruction before rebirth can happen. Sure, everything must die one day, no big deal, but there’s no reason to self-accelerate man’s demise; the shorter the life cycle, the less time we have to learn. It is in the precious human form that we stand a better — though still dismal — chance of achieving enlightenment, reuniting with our complementary Yin side, restoring clarity, becoming whole again.

How? There’s no secret. We’ve been told again and again by gods and sages since time immemorial: meditate, contemplate, retreat, pray, chant, discover. In every culture, there are age-old revelations we have not only neglected, but also wilfully rejected.

Perhaps that’s why I’m whispering, at least that’s my self-justification. I know it won’t make any difference, but I can’t resist my own karmic persuasion which apparently has a strong residual attachment to humanity, and a disposition to whisper. During my last earthly tenure, I conducted quiet extra-species conversations through the netherworld. Now, as a ghost, I continue in reverse, breathing into the subconscious of a human to construct this monologue. I hope the he wouldn’t adulterate it with too much of his own illusions though. If he does, well, there isn’t much I can do. My time and power are limited.

Being a muttering phantom is tenuous business. My symbiotic connection to the medium is fickle and fragile. Having become a ghost, I must also face an additional ‘death’ anytime. Yes, ghosts die too, even more abruptly than humans. From one instant to the next, I may dissipate. Nothing can hang on to a slippery boulder forever. I expect to be swept away by the karmic current any moment, sent onto another world, or, gods forbid, returned to where you are through various reincarnation paths. Acquiring a new body is not something I look forward to. It’s a brutally traumatic process which humans promptly forget at birth, unaware of the residual smudges and ugly scars left on their subconscious. All that for what? To be a miserable member of a diabolical species again? To once again line up to die?

In the long term, mankind will reset, but only after first becoming even more diabolical. Given a choice, I of course don’t wish to participate. Unfortunately, it’s not up to me. My next destination is not something I can nominate. I’ll find out soon enough though. Don’t think I’ll be able to resist much longer. I can feel my ghost-force waning quickly.

Perhaps it’s time that I stop rambling and get on with reincarnation, hoping pointlessly for the best…



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