It gives us a curious slant on life to know we may have unknown friends. Unknown in that we really don’t know how they operate, who they are, or where they come from. Sometimes they seem to come from the other side--in this example, not surprisingly, from a mother. Theresa Cheung, a University of Cambridge graduate, with a master’s in theology and English, said that while driving towards a junction behind a truck, she was about to turn left but her dead mother’s voice told her to shift to the right lane. She said: “Even though she had died a few years earlier, it was my mother’s voice, and I obeyed instantly. If I had turned left, you wouldn’t be reading this now, because I would have driven into a pile-up that claimed the lives of three people in cars directly behind the truck. I can’t explain that voice; it must have been my mother guiding me … It proved to me there is an afterlife.” (Daily and Sunday Express. 2018. express.co.uk/news/ weird/935615/life-after-death-afterlife-what-happens-when-you-die)
I have a similar story from a nurse who was once my student. She was driving to work and had reached a stop; when the light turned green, she was about to press the gas pedal when she suddenly saw her dead mother appear standing in front of the car. The nurse froze while exactly at that instant a Mack truck ran the red light, and would have killed her if she had not been stopped by the apparition of her mother. Once again, somebody’s life seems to have been saved by an unpredictable intervention from nowhere.
Here’s another story I heard from a student. In 1967, in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, an American soldier, Celestino B., was saved by an unknown voice that called him three times to move toward the end of the dugout during an air raid. As soon as he did that, a bomb struck the very seat where he was sitting and killed everybody in line up to but excluding him. An unknown voice saved Celestino His mother prayed to Padre Pio for her son and credits the miracle to the Padre—but who knows for sure?
Even more obscure is the identity of the unknown friends that save people as reported in cases from a book called The Third Man, a collection of stories by John Geiger about people caught in terrible circumstances who are saved in mysterious ways. For example, in one case a man lost in a blizzard in the vicinity of his arctic outpost would have surely perished if an unknown form and voice had not appeared out of nowhere and led him just to the point he needed to reach so he could make it back on his own. The title of Geiger’s book is a reference to a poem of T.S. Eliot where such an unknown presence is invoked.
In Josh Slocum’s great travel book, Sailing Around the World Alone, the author describes how the spirit of the great sailor, Sir Francis Drake, would appear to him during rough weather, converse with him, and take over the tiller while Slocum slept.
Stories of this sort aren’t hard to find. I’ll mention as a last example, the belief found everywhere in the mythology of guardian angels. It seems likely that this belief is based on stories of unexplained helping interventions such as the examples above. .
From Plato to the Upanishads, many if not most traditional religions have embraced the belief in a transpersonal or transcendent mind. Modern scientific materialism evolved in such a way that seemed to falsify that belief. According to it, our minds are weak, fragile byproducts of our brains, and their powers are confined within the limits of what brains can do.
But this is no longer the mainline view. Today the majority of pros agree that science is unable to reduce our mental life to our brain life. There are correlations not explanations. Consciousness cannot be squeezed conceptually into the brain. Our brains are tiny dots in a boundless sea of consciousness. But that sea does connect with our personal river of consciousness. So, in a sense, each of us is indeed a small thing; but in another sense, we are a great, infinite thing. How we view ourselves depends (most of the time) on the kind of experiences life throws at us. Contractile or expansive. The big question: Are there ways we can learn to burst open the floodgate of higher consciousness? Any ideas out there? Stories of unknown friends? Secret allies? Mysterious interventions?