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Introduction: Finding ways of connecting to loved ones after death is a common goal for those in a state of bereavement. Such after death experiences may take the form of a vivid dream in which the deceased appears. Others report hearing the voice of the lost loved one or having conversations with him or her. Still others have reported spontaneous and unexpected visions or signs that seem to come from the deceased and which are experienced by others in what may be understood as ghosts. And others describe physical sensations, such as chills or a breeze in a specific area. In an effort to better understand these experiences and to further the field of parapsychology and transpersonal studies, this panel considers practices that can enable people to engage their active imaginations to communicate with the departed. This includes research involving the psychomanteum, a sensory deprivation procedure that has been used in efforts to experience the departed.
Presentation 1: Transpersonal Experiences and Grief Processing through Intentional Mirror Gazing
Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., MA
The standard psychomantium makes use of a simple protocol that occurs in a dark, quiet room with a comfortable chair and a slightly illuminated mirror. The mirror is placed just above the person’s head so that the reflection shows the darkened room and nothing else. This sensory isolation procedure has been shown to trigger sensory experiences that lie outside ordinary awareness. While mainly thought to be subjective in nature, reports by those in the psychomanteum suggest that the after death experiences were veridical and carried great personal meaning. The goals of this presentation are to discuss a research study that has the following goals: 1) Compare experiences of embodiment in the psychomanteum using three immersive conditions (Chamber, in private homes, and through a Virtual Reality Application; 2) Measure depth of experience and shift in state of bereavement and grief 3) Conduct thematic analysis of the content of people’s experiences in both conditions is to expand previous research by focusing on the psychomanteum and comparing the physical protocol and a Virtual Reality (VR) protocol to more fully explore the technique for studying transpersonal states of consciousness.
Presentation 2: Dorote Luce, Ph.D., MA
This presentation will focus on the use of VR in the study described by Schlitz as a technique for exploring altered states of consciousness that include making use of active imagination to experience departed loved ones. Making use of VR technology may serve to expand and scale the technique for greater applications in various settings, expanding the area of study into the cross section of Transpersonal Psychology and neuroscience.
Presentation 3: Unpacking experiences with entities – Christine Simmonds-Moore, PhD, MPhil.
This presentation will discuss and integrate the results of a mixed methods study that investigated subjective experiences with ghosts using an online survey and a psychomanteum procedure. The study highlights ghost experiences as a meaning-making endeavour that is highly relevant to transpersonal psychology, parapsychology, clinical [para]psychology and understanding the nature of reality. Ghost experiences are highly tangible and perceptual-like experiences that can be challenging to those who experience them. Our study suggests that ghosts have both subjective and objective qualities, particularly among those who are strong synesthetes and that encounters with deceased loved ones, in particular, can be highly impactful.
Presentation 4: After Death Communications – Callum E. Cooper, PhD.
This presentation will provide a brief overview of after-death communication (ADC) research history and the health benefits for those who experience them. Since 2018, a new large-scale cross-cultural questionnaire has been gathering data on ADCs from several language groups, with initial feedback from just over one thousand respondents. Now, the core team of researchers who designed and disseminated this questionnaire are now continuing their efforts with further language groups, while also breaking down existing findings to give focus to the various phenomenological aspects of the ADC for close analysis. Such recent outputs and future directions will be highlighted.