"Totem" by Rush
I've got twelve disciples and a Buddha smile
Garden of Allah, Viking Valhalla
A miracle once in a while
I've got a pantheon of animals in a pagan soul
Vishnu and Gaia, Aztec and Maya
Dance around my totem pole
I believe in what I see
I believe in what I hear
I believe that what I'm feeling
Changes how the world appears
Angels and demons dancing in my head
Lunatics and monsters underneath my bed
Media messiahs preying on my fears
Pop culture prophets playing in my ears
I've got celestial mechanics
To synchronize my stars
Seasonal migrations, daily variations
World of the unlikely and bizarre
I've got idols and icons, unspoken holy vows
Thoughts to keep well-hidden
Sacred and forbidden
Free to browse among the holy cows
That's why I believe
Angels and demons inside of me
Saviors and Satans all around me
Sweet chariot, swing low, coming for me
In my book "Was That a Ghost?" I discussed a system for dealing with potential paranormal experiences called the "Trinity of Relevance." In that trinity (context, belief systems and self-explanatory style), belief holds a very special position in how a person handles a paranormal experience.
The key to remember here is that belief does not determine if it actually WAS a paranormal experience, but belief greatly influences the reactions and actions of those who encounter it.
When you believe in something, you look for evidence of it. It creates an explanatory style (how you explain things to yourself) that supports it. It changes the way you interpret your whole world and all its events. If you don't believe that, just look at atheists versus Christians. An atheist can find plenty of proof of evolution and a Christian can find plenty of proof of creation.
Having helped counsel folks for panic and anxiety disorders for decades, I do know that what you tell yourself about anything changes your world. Let's look at this interesting series of events that happens in the human mind:
The barista at the local Starbuck's looks at Johnny with an expression of discomfort and disgust and then looks away, refusing to look at him again while taking his order. Johnny's belief system is one that carries the message "You are repugnant." With that facial expression from the barista and his belief system, Johnny explains it this way, "she thinks I'm hideous." Now, Johnny feels invisible, unwanted, and repulsive.
Ultimately, we will never know what was in the barista's mind when she made that expression, unless we ask her and then we are at the whim of whether she wants to divulge the truth or not. All we know is that an expression was made and its origins are unverifiable objectively, but vulnerable to interpretation.
This is what happens in the world of the paranormal. Events occur and their origins cannot be discerned concretely, so we are left with the effects of these paranormal encounters which can be anything from disinterest to amazement, terror to excitement. All of those emotions are the result of belief systems. They are the filter through which we observe our lives. When someone has a low self-esteem, the first thing we want to target is that belief system that makes him explain everything in such a self-deprecating manner.
When you change the belief, you change the explanations that stem from that belief and thus the emotions.
In the world of paranormal encounters, we can never know what the phenomena has as an intention or where it is coming from. All we have is our belief system and the explanatory style that supports those beliefs. If you believe in ghosts, a knocking sound is a ghost trying to communicate. If you don't believe in ghosts, it is an old house expanding and contracting after a hot day and cold night.
Do we really know what the knocking was? No. We may never be able to know what caused the knocking for sure.
The only reason I am able to confront some very odd phenomena and go into dark scary places all alone and observe and interact is purely because my belief system does not house a single demon or devil, evil occupying entity or possession. Hence, I never ever encountered them.
We can never know what the hell paranormal activity is, but how you interpret it is based upon your beliefs. Some people would run and scream and others would rush towards it with excitement. Investigators and psychics will bend the evidence to fit any belief system they support.
In the end, all we can ever really say about paranormal experiences is that, upon occasion we see, hear, smell and feel things that we cannot explain and that leave us with a puzzle. In the end, we tuck these away in our minds colored by the belief system that interpreted them.
We can all agree on the events; but we cannot agree on the origins or threat; those come from the subjective human witness.