The following is excerpted from Reunions: Visionary Encounters With Departed Loved Ones published in 1993. It details Dr. Moody’s extensive work with mirror gazing, and particularly his use of the psychomanteum, a small chamber, modeled on the Oracles of the Dead, where Ancient Greeks traveled to communicate with their departed loved ones and the experiences people have had using these techniques. Learn more about the book here.
The Nature of Visions
I sometimes define fantasy as something
that I have been told by somebody else that
I never saw myself.
Buried deep in the scientific literature are several studies that examine reunions with the departed. The first such study that I am aware of was a “Census of Hallucinations,” conducted in 1894. This fascinating work, led by Henry Sidgwick, a member of the Society for Psychical Research in England, asked seventeen thousand people the following deeply personal question: “Have you ever, when believing yourself to be completely awake, had a vivid impression of seeing or being touched by a living being or inanimate object, or of hearing a voice; which impression, as far as you could discover, was not due to any external physical cause?” A “yes” answer led to a face-to-face interview with one of the 410 volunteers working on the study. More than 2,000 people answered in the affirmative.
When obvious dreams and delirium were ruled out, the number of people who actually had apparitional visions was 1,684. These accounts of encounters were benign and short in duration, usually lasting less than a minute. Many of the apparitions were seen in a medium similar to a mirror. Following is an example from a “Mrs. W,” which was recorded in 1885. In this experience she discusses seeing the upper half of a man with a very pale face and dark hair and moustache” in the reflection of a window:
One evening about 8:30, I had occasion to go into the drawing room to get something out of the cupboard, when, on turning round, I saw the same face in the bay-window, in front of the shutters, which were closed. I again saw only the upper part of the figure, which seemed to be in a somewhat crouching posture. The light on this occasion came from the hall and the dining-room, and did not shine directly on the window; but I was able perfectly to distinguish the face and the expression of the eyes… On each of these occasions I was 8 to 10 feet distant from the figure.
The people who collected these experiences were unable to explain them. They did have theories, however. One was that a deceased person has left something behind in a certain locality and whatever was left communicates in some way with the living. Another speculation was that these apparitional sightings were hallucinations of the sane, vivid creations of the mind.
Whatever the case, the Society for Psychical Research concluded that there was no clear evidence for a “post-mortem agency.” The researchers claimed to have no other choice but to call the apparitional sighting “hallucinations,” since they left no physical trace. They didn’t deal with the possibility that Andrew Lang put forth later: “[Some] hallucinations are casual and unsought,” he wrote in Dreams and Ghosts. “But between these and the dreams of sleep there is a kind of waking hallucination which some people can purposely evoke. Such are the visions of (mirror) gazing.
Check back next week for the second half of this fascinating excerpt!
To read an excerpt of another of Dr. Moody’s works, please see our previous post Past Lives and Living Again
Raymond Moody, M.D., Ph.D. is the world’s leading authority on the near-death experience. For nearly 50 years he has researched, interviewed, written and lectured on the subject of what lies beyond this life and what happens to those left behind.
He is also the bestselling author of eleven books which have sold over 20 million copies.