"Die Liebe ist stark wie der Tod , so hart wie die Hölle. Der Tod scheidet die Seele vom Leibe , die Liebe aber scheidet, alle Dinge von der Seele" ~ Meister Eckhart
Translated into English the quote above reads:
"Love is as strong as death, as hard as Hell. Death separates the soul from the body, but love separates all things from the soul.”
The following blog post deals with my experiments using a psychomanteum in the hope of healing the broken heart I endured after my Mother's death in August 2009. It was an extremely difficult time for me not only emotionally, but physically and psychically as well. Much of what will be shared below comes from a private diary I kept at the time of the psychomanteum sessions. I called these sessions my Summer experiment of 2010, and I will let the reader judge for themselves the true nature of what transpired.
Before going further I will give a brief description and history of the psychomanteum for those who are not familiar with it. The psychomanteum is based on the ancient Greek oracles of the dead. People who wished to consult with the souls of the dead would enter a very dark place, and then gaze into a reflective surface, such as a pool of still water which facilitated a hypnotic or trance-like state. The reflective surface then became a conduit into another realm for those participants who were able to achieve an altered state of consciousness. This evocation of visions, and spirits was considered to be beneficial and enlightening.
In modern times the psychomanteum was reinvented by Dr Raymond A. Moody, author of the best-selling book Life After Life. Experiments with the process of the psychomanteum led him to the conclusion that it would be a good therapeutic tool, especially for those who were dealing with an intense or prolonged grief. You can learn more by clicking the link, which will open in another window.
For those interested in psychomanteum experiments I highly recommend reading his book first. It is fairly easy to build a makeshift psychomanteum within a quiet, darkened room, with mirrors, and a candle. It was Moody's book that gave me the inspiration to try out the psychomanteum for myself and I took into advisement his caution that this was not something to be undertaken lightly.
They still stand and in their silent rooms still wander, the souls of the dead, who keep their watch on the living. ~ Jim Morrison
My father had passed away 10 years prior in 1999, and with Mom's death, which followed a very brief and horrific illness I felt like a great big orphan. I tried to go into the psychomanteum experiment with no expectations, but of course the hope was to see a vision of my Mother, to tell her how much I loved and missed her and perhaps with that, begin healing my own deep sorrow.
At the very least, even if nothing at all happened, I figured it was something to focus on beyond the sadness and the other stresses I was going through at that time.
It was early June 2010 when I began the first sessions. Special mirrors were purchased that I felt personally drawn to for the project.
At first I used a very dark and quiet room, and a comfy chair. This later progressed to a totally dark space with virtually no sound, pretty much a closet with comfy pillows where I sat cross legged in the lotus position gazing into the mirror with a very minimal light. The mirrors were positioned at a slight angle so that I could not really see my own reflection very well. This is apparently helpful to the process. I gave up on the candle fairly early on as I actually found the flickering flame distracting. The psychomanteum experience can be tailored around one's own ability to achieve an altered state in my opinion so there is no hard and fast rules beyond the very basic set-up.
I kept a diary with detailed entries for each session including the start time and duration of each, even what I did or did not eat earlier in the day. I see myself as a self experimenting quasi scientist with each of my summer experiments and this was true with the psychomanteum.
The first few sessions produced nothing really noteworthy beyond an eerie sensation of being watched. That feeling never went away, but as I became more comfortable with it, I was able to achieve a much deeper state of relaxation. It was then that odd things began to occur.
From my notes at the time, each session would begin with a very strong sense of someone, a presence if you will that was with me. The first and really only visions I had began as balls of light that I would see seemingly exit the mirror and dance about around me. With each session the number increased and they began to appear in various colours, sometimes very vibrant in rich blues, and reds. "Like jewels dancing in the night sky, little suns, ufos." This is a quote from my entry of July 10th 2010. And within a few days of that entry I began hearing disembodied voices or having auditory hallucinations if you prefer.
The "voices" I heard were both male and female and something else.... "very melodic almost soothing like the wind chimes in a gentle breeze." At first I could not recognize the language they were speaking, but it sounded to me to be German. This was the birth language of my Mother, and one which she spoke frequently at home, but it was not her voice that I heard, and was I assumed a different dialect from the one she spoke. I could not make out any clear sentences at all, which was frustrating. The voices seemed faraway and speaking very fast. And when I made attempts to really consciously listen to the words the trance state would be broken and I would be left sitting in a dark closet feeling even more frustrated that I had no idea what had happened or what was being said.
Illumination from the Liber Scivias showing Hildegard receiving a vision and dictating to her scribe and secretary
I really have no good speculation on why the experiment produced such results. The experience was not at all what I had expected, which at worst I figured would result in nothing more than feeling silly at even attempting it, or at best a true appritional experience of my Mom and similar to that described by some of Dr Moody's patients. Whoever or whatever the German voices really were I can say that they felt very familiar and comforting to me at the time, even if I could not truly make out what they were saying. This is noted in my psychomanteum diary.
The "voices" led me into some interesting research on German or Rhineland mysticism, which was a late medieval Christian mystical movement that was especially prominent within the Dominican order in Germany. It originated with Hildegard of Bingen who some believe was an early UFO experient if you put a modern space-age spin on her experiences and it includes Meister Eckhart who I have quoted above. In a bit of synchronicity shortly after my experiments a friend began working on her Master's thesis on Hildegard and in turn shared much of her own research with me. This was an illuminating and thought provocative period for me that took me into areas of study I may have otherwise never considered, and for that I am indebted and grateful to both my friend and the psychomanteum experience.
I continued on with the psychomanteum sessions until September 16th 2010, which marked my last entry in the diary. Over the course of three months I had experienced the strong feeling of being watched, of an unseen presence, beautiful balls of light, disembodied sounds including voices, and occasional knocks or bangs similar if not identical to poltergeist raps. Coincidentally the last day of my experiment coincides exactly with the death of Hildegard 830 years prior on September 17th 1179.
In my notes for that day I wrote, "I need to take a break from this, but I will revisit it soon again."
I never did.
"Love is the strongest force, more stronger than even Death." ~ Said Myself.
I did not see an apparition of my Mother in the psychomanteum. When my Mom was dying in the weeks leading up to her passing she would tell me that I would always see her in my dreams. And I have.
The intense grief including anger that I felt at the loss of my Mom has long since ebbed away. Life if you let it will get in the way of grief, and while the pain diminishes, the missing never goes away. And that in my mind is how it should be, although it has taken 6 full years before I found myself in a place mentally and emotionally where I could openly share my experiment.
I cannot truly say that the psychomanteum helped me with the grieving process, but I did ultimately achieve a highly personal and interesting experience from my sessions. It does not matter in my opinion if they were merely simple hallucinations or something far more mysterious and profound, it was the end result that I found to be beneficial and worthwhile to me.
Please note: The photo of myself posted above is fairly recent and that was not one of the mirrors used in the original experiment.
For further reading on psychomanteum research
you may be interested in a series of experiments conducted in Alberta Canada in 2014. A new window will open up if you click on the link provided.
More on the history of the Oracle of the Dead
through this link which also opens up in a new window.
Further suggested reading based on my personal experiences:
Spiritual Encounters with Unusual Light Phenomena: Lightforms By Mark Fox (c) 2008
Published by: University of Wales Press
Apparitions: An Archetypal Approach to Death, Dreams and Ghosts by Aniela Jaffe (c) 1983
Life After Life by Raymond Moody (c) 1975