In his supernatural memoir Ghost Brother Angel, Grant Schnarr describes how a terrifying brush with death intersects with memories of a ghost from his childhood to lead him on a spiritual journey. We sat down with the author to get an inside perspective on the story.
SF: This book describes a series of events that happened over several months, and in the preface to the book you say you wrote them down almost immediately after they happened. Did you have a sense then that this would become a book? At what point did you decide you wanted to publish this story?
GS: I knew right away that I had to share this story. So, yes, I did have the aim of writing and publishing a book about these series of events and what I learned. I waited to actually seek publishing for many years because I needed to sit with it and see if more insights didn’t come over time, and they did! These are now incorporated into the book. Also, I must admit, I felt people in the church I was ministering to at that time might think the book was too “far out” when it comes to the paranormal aspects of story. I didn’t want to make waves. Times have changed both in society’s interest and acceptance of the paranormal, for instance the dozen or so shows now filling the menu on the television screen, to more acceptance in the church about people’s individual personal accounts of being touched by loved ones in the afterlife. The time just seemed to become ripe, and I submitted it for publication.
SF: The events described in this book happened more than fifteen years ago. Has your perception of what happened changed since then? If so, how?
GS: I’ve told the story many times to a variety of people over the years, and I suppose there are two lessons that I have learned and hope to share with others who read this book. The first lesson is that you can change, that is, overcome childhood fears, wounds, and memories. I know this is very hard for those who have gone through real trauma, and that it takes a lot of help and support. But healing to one degree or another is possible, and these events recorded in this book, and my own growing understanding and initiating life change, could help others to have hope. The second important lesson for the reader is that there is hope for an afterlife and being reunited with loved ones. The other world is real, beautiful, and closer than you think.
SF: The book opens with a real-life ghost story. Could you talk a little bit about how you view ghosts from a Swedenborgian perspective?
GS: I don’t believe Swedenborg talks about “ghosts,” but he does talk about the reality of the afterlife, spirits, and how they are associated with not only people, but places and things. Swedenborg says—and I teach this—it is not a good idea to try to contact spirits. You’ll most likely get what Swedenborg calls an “enthusiastic spirit” who would like nothing more than to lead you astray. This is a rare occurrence, but worth heeding the warning. Swedenborg does say that there are people who do have contact with angels on occasions and loved ones, especially the elderly who are preparing for the other world. This is natural and not dangerous in any way, but can often make people feel better about the passing of a loved one or their own passing with age.
I don’t necessarily believe that ghosts are actual spirits trapped in this world. There is not enough time to explain my entire view, but I believe that something in this world is attached to certain spirits, or events. The appearance or feeling of a “ghost” may be something that is more like a recording in this world associated with the spirit but not actually the spirit itself. A good example of this is visiting a Civil War battleground. Many have felt the spirits of the men who fought there, and for many, the area feels especially sacred. Are the soldiers hanging around, or is it some sort of impression they have left behind? I think the latter. But I could say more.
SF: Brotherhood is a major theme in these events, especially in the broader sense of sharing a close emotional bond with other men. What does brotherhood mean to you, and what kind of role has it played in your life?
GS: I have a lot of male friends who are my “brothers,” and I have worked with men is my SWET (Spiritual Warfare Effectiveness Training) weekends, where we emphasize the importance of brotherhood and brotherly support. This means a lot to me. But growing up without my brother present in my life, to actually experience that I HAVE a brother, a “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” brother, is deeply moving and special to me. It’s huge, and when you read the book, you’ll see that it has changed everything for me.
SF: Although some of the things you describe were traumatic at the time, you describe looking back later and seeing the hand of the Lord guiding you through these “coincidences.” Do you think this happens to other people, too?
GS: I think there are signs all around us all the time of God’s presence. We just have to look for them, and be open to his leading. It’s always in the right direction. I don’t believe God makes bad things happen. This is contrary to his pure and absolute love. But when bad things happen, he can make the best come out of it, and even good come out of it, if we let him. He’s that loving and that powerful. Why some people have more dramatic lives than others is beyond me. I happen to be one of those people, and I often wish my life were a little more bland. But who knows? Maybe I need huge signs that God is there to keep me on track? I don’t know.
SF: Has anything similar to the events described in this book happened to you since? Would you want it to?
GS: Although I’ve been involved in helping others when things like this happen, whether it’s investigating a paranormal experience from a priestly perspective or giving hope to those who are bereaved, I have never since had anything happen like what is written in this account. I am glad. It was a lot to handle, and though I grew much from it, I am happy to have no more near-death experiences, or the like.
Ghost Brother Angel
A Supernatural Memoir
256 pgs / 978-0-87785-346-6