To fully understand The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts (1989), it is important that readers know that author Joe Fisher committed suicide about the time this Paraview Press edition was issued in 2001. According to Paraview's website ("Troubled by personal problems - as well as by the spirits he claimed to have angered in writing The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts - Joe Fisher took his own life on May 9, 2001"), Fisher's tragic suicide resulted from late complications involving his investigation into the world of "channeling and spirit guides," which makes the book's dedication ("This book is dedicated to my dear mother, Monica, who has always insisted that demons do exist") all the more ominous.
The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts recounts Fisher's fraternization over a number of years with a diverse group of people who meet weekly to "channel" the disembodied "guides" who speak to them through a non - professional, fatally - ill trance medium. Eventually coming into verbal contact with his own personal "guide," "Filipa," a Greek woman who claims to have been his devoted lover in a former life, Fisher slowly becomes emotionally dependent on their apparently sincere and forthright communications. Fighting paranoia as he discovers that "Filipa" seems to know his every thought and action and is even able to intervene in his daily affairs, the author sets off to England and Greece to prove to himself that "Filipa" was in life who she claims to be in death.
The Siren Call Of Hungry Ghosts is a disturbing book on many levels, not the least of which is Fisher's initial failure to establish any sort of sanity - preserving rational guidelines to help him discriminate between, understand, and classify his perceptions, insights, and experiences. Though Fisher had written two earlier books on the subject of reincarnation, and appears to have humbly considered himself somewhat of an expert and skeptic, readers will readily discern Fisher's amazing lack of objectivity, as well as his broad credulity and emotional desperation as his experiences with "Filipa" devolve from the surprising and inexplicable to the harrowing and destabilizing. The book is full of indefinite suppositions like "throughout recorded history, many people have been sensitive to an accompanying presence in their daily lives" and "humanity has always been attended by invisible beings," which make it clear that bedrock intellectual ballast was a quality the author lacked. As a result, Fisher seems headed for serious trouble even before the events of the book begin, especially since "gullible" is an adjective the author feels applies only to other channeling enthusiasts. Sadly, though familiar with the work of William James, Carl Jung, and Julian Jaynes, Fisher never seriously considers the dynamic role human psychology may play in the complex channeling phenomena.
Since the author was clearly experiencing a remarkable series of extraordinary events, readers may find it difficult to sympathize with his literalizing desire to hold the "discarnate" presences absolutely at their word, as if the content and nature of their pronouncements were his to command. As the book progresses, the author's "need to believe" becomes increasingly frantic, barely concealing an unsubtle will for power that Fisher fails to acknowledge or discipline. Addicted to "Filipa" and the romantic fantasies he has spun around her, confused, and manipulated on all levels by an increasing variety of "entities," Fisher pays a heavy price for his hunger for "self - knowledge," preoccupation with the dubious notion of "eternal love," and needy willingness to place his emotional and mental welfare wholly in the trust of apparent unknown super - normal agencies. Obviously, Fisher should have questioned whether his fervent desire for an all - powerful and transcendent guardian figure did not disguise his own unresolved parental complexes.
Fisher did realize that his interest had become an unhealthy obsession, but rather later in the game than readers will. By that time, he was moving unsuccessfully from channeler to channeler, attempting to prove that "Filipa" could manifest identically through different mediums, or that other entities could blindly identify her as his true "guide," and thus offer some evidence of her objective reality. In one bizarre episode remarkable for its audacity, Fisher flies to England in hopes of obtaining an audience with a newborn infant who he believes to be the reincarnation of "Ernest," one of the disembodied personalities whose given history has proven to be false. Meanwhile, the author's human relationships fail, and he finds that "no matter how hard I tried, I could not shrug off a cloying sense of contamination which could neither be pinpointed or explained. Life had rarely been so fraught with uneasiness."
The book's last chapter and newly - added epilogue find Fisher wiser, paraphrasing Goethe ("Whatever liberates our spirit without giving us self - control is disastrous") and Jung ("We die to the extent that we fail to discriminate"), but still anxious, paranoid about the "invisible" forces around him, unsure of the order of things, and fearful that the retribution of the "spirits," his "unseen enemies," may lead to his demise. The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts is an intelligent book that Fisher partially intended as a warning to others; it is also a sad and educational commentary on human fallibility, hubris, recklessness, and the tragedy that can arise when "the abiding human need for greater meaning in life" goes awry.
I want to confess up front that I haven't read this book-regardless of that, I would like to point out that Fisher wound up jumping off of a cliff in 2001, in spite of his convictions that suicide was never justifiable. You have to wonder how much the dealings with "spirits" had to do with his suicide. The moral of his book seems to be that people are better off not communicating with "spirits", and I would imagine that his suicide makes point more profoundly than anything that he wrote would. Having said that, I'm ordering this book and I plan to read it immediately.