Probably a dozen times since their deaths I've heard my mother or father, in an ordinary, conversational tone of voice, call my name,'' Cornell University astronomer Carl Sagan
Magazine: NEW AGE JOURNAL
Issue: November/Decenmber 1993
Title: Through the Looking Glass
Author: Raymond Moody, M.D., with Paul Perry
Through the Looking Glass:
By Raymond Moody, M.D., with Paul Perry
Probably a dozen times since their deaths I've heard my mother or
father, in an ordinary, conversational tone of voice, call my name," Cornell
University astronomer Carl Sagan confessed in a recent Parade magazine
article. "They had called my name often during my life with them. I still miss
them so much that it doesn't seem strange to me that my brain occasionally
will retrieve a kind of lucid recollection of their voices."
Sagan's experience doesn't surprise me, either. Long after their
physical bodies are gone, the spirits of the dead continue to vividly occupy
an important part of our minds. Indeed, the wish for some form of reunion with
departed loved ones is among the most poignant and insistent of human desires.
It taunts and saddens us with a litany of what ifs and if onlys, and mournful
pleas for only five minutes more.
For some people, this wish is actually fulfilled in the form of
visions or apparitions of the deceased. Studies suggest that as many as 66
percent of widows experience apparitions of their departed husbands. And as
many as 75 percent of parents who lose a child reportedly will have some kind
of apparition of that child within a year of the loss. People who experience
apparitions not only see the dead, many -- as with Sagan -- hear, feel, or
sometimes even smell them. All of these encounters are powerful reminders that
those we love are deeply embedded in our unconscious mind. So deeply embedded,
in fact, that it is not a great leap to think that we should want to continue
to communicate with them in one form or another.
In the process of researching my book Life After Life, I discovered
that people who have near-death experiences also report encounters with a form
of apparition. As they enter into a realm of light, they are met by the
spirits of relatives and friends who have previously died. These experiences
are often transformative, frequently having positive aftereffects.
Soon after making these discoveries, I began to wonder: Could the
near-death experience be replicated and brought about in people of good
health? The popular appeal of this idea was shown in the success of the film
Flatliners, in which medical students induce cardiac arrest in each other in
attempts to create near-death experiences. This method of bringing back
dispatches from the other side made for an interesting movie. However, no one
in his or her right mind would attempt such a stunt.
Over the years, I remained interested in duplicating the near-death
experience, especially that portion in which the person sees departed loved
ones. But I had no idea how to do it.
Then, one autumn day in 1987, the answer fell on me -- literally. I
was browsing through the shelves of a used book store in a small Georgia town.
As I walked toward a section of art books in the back of the store, a book
fell off the shelves and dropped at my feet.
Bending over to pick it up, I noticed that its title was Crystal
Gazing. My initial sensation was one of disgust. Mirror gazing (which is a
more appropriate term for this practice) has long been associated with fraud
and deceit -- the gypsy woman bilking clients or the fortuneteller who needs
more money before he can clearly see the visions in the crystal ball. I would
have put the book back on the shelf at that point had I not remembered a
conversation I'd once had with William Roll, a pioneer in the study of the
paranormal, who said that people did indeed see visions in the clear depth of
mirrors. Out of curiosity I flipped through a few pages and then began reading
the first chapter. The author, Northcote Thomas, was a compulsive and serious
scholar. He discussed some of the methods of mirror gazing and briefly covered
elements of its psychology.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the book was the introduction
from Andrew Lang, an eminent scholar. He expressed the belief that the
psychological and scientific community would be appalled by anyone who dared
attempt a rational examination of mirror gazing. He was quick to point out
that such a reaction would be unfair, since it would keep inquisitive people
from examining the mysteries of the mind.
Through the book I became excited at the possibilities of mirror
gazing. I had been studying some of the ways in which cultures had created and
used altered states of consciousness. In the course of this work I had
stumbled upon a number of accounts in which apparitions of the dead were
evoked among living people. Most notable were the experiences in the Greek
oracles of the dead, or psychomanteums, where people journeyed to consult with
spirits of the deceased. Accounts that have survived from those remote times
make it clear that people actually seemed to see and be in direct contact with
the departed during those visits.
Thomas's book and the additional research made me realize that visions
of departed loved ones are far more accessible than I had previously believed.
As I stood in that dusty bookstore, I felt a stirring of excitement, knowing
that my next few years would be spent exploring a field with great and
After further researching the role of mirror gazing through history, I
decided in the spring of 1990 to attempt to facilitate visionary encounters
with the departed in much the way the Greeks had. First there needed to be a
special kind of environment in which the procedure could be carried out. I
began converting the upstairs of my old gristmill in Alabama into a modern-day
psycho-manteum. Mine would be a modernized version of the ones found in
ancient Greece, with the same goal in mind -- that of seeing apparitions of
A room was set aside for use as an apparition chamber. At one end of
the room a mirror four feet tall and three-and-a-half feet wide was mounted on
the wall. The bottom edge of the mirror was three feet above the floor.
A comfortable easy chair was prepared by removing its legs so that the
top of the headrest was about three feet above the floor. The chair was placed
about three feet from the mirror and inclined slightly backward. This was done
for comfort but also to keep the reflection of the gazer from being seen in
the mirror. In effect the angle of the chair created a clear depth view in the
mirror, which would reflect only the darkness behind the person who was
gazing. The result was a crystal-clear pool of darkness.
This pool of darkness was assured by the black velvet curtain draped
all around the chair from the ceiling. A curved curtain rod was used to allow
the drape to surround the area around the chair and mirror, creating a
curtained booth or chamber. Inside this apparition chamber and directly behind
the chair was placed a small stained glass lamp with a fifteen watt bulb. When
the lights in the room were turned off and the outside light excluded by
blinds and thick window curtains, this tiny light provided the room's only
This simple room, with its dim light, darkened surroundings, and the
clear depth of the mirror provided the ideal mirror-gazing environment. I was
now ready to test my theories.
The question posed initially was a simple one: Can apparitions of
deceased loved ones be consistently facilitated in normal, healthy people? I
assembled ten test subjects who were willing to devote the time necessary to
As with most studies of this nature, I had criteria for the test
subjects: They must be mature people interested in human consciousness. They
must be emotionally stable, inquisitive, and articulate. None of the subjects
could have emotional or mental disorders, to lessen the likelihood that the
procedure would cause a bad reaction. And none of the subjects could have
occult ideologies, since such leanings could complicate the analysis of the
I contacted a number of people known to me who fit these criteria.
Included were counselors, psychologists, medical doctors, graduate students,
and professionals in other fields.
The project was explained in detail to all the subjects. What we were
trying to do, I told them, was to evoke an apparition of a deceased person to
whom they had been close and whom they would like to see again. They were then
asked to select a few mementos, objects that had been owned by the deceased
person and were strongly and poignantly associated with them. They would bring
these objects with them to the psychomanteum on the day of their apparitional
I then scheduled their sessions, making certain to deal with only one
subject at a time. Each of the subjects was asked to arrive at ten a.m. on the
appointed day and to bring the mementos and even photo albums if they were
available. They were also asked to dress in loose-fitting clothing and
comfortable walking shoes, and to refrain from drinking coffee, tea, or any
other beverage containing caffeine.
Upon his or her arrival the subject and I would take a leisurely walk
in the countryside. On these strolls we would explore the person's motivation
for attempting to see the departed. The subject would be told that there was
no guarantee that an apparition would be seen. This of course was true. There
was no way I could promise that an apparition would be seen, but my other
reason for doing this was more subtle: I wanted to remove any pressure to
have an experience. Such pressure could cause anxiety and reduce the chances
of having an apparitional experience.
After the walk we would eat a light lunch of soup, salad, fruit, and
fruit juice or decaffeinated soda. Then we would sit down for a lengthy talk,
during which time we'd discuss in detail the person who had died and the
relationship that had existed between the two of them. We'd explore such areas
as the type of person the deceased had been, his or her appearance, habits
-- virtually every aspect of personality.
Usually the subject would bring up important and touching memories.
Throughout our conversation the mementos would be right there between us and
frequently handled by the subjects. Some of these mementos were quite
touching. One man brought his father's fishing equipment. A woman brought her
sister's hat. These objects functioned as poignant and tangible reminders of
These preparatory sessions would last until dusk. Then the subject
would be escorted into the mirror-gazing booth, the lamp inside turned on, and
all the remaining light in the room extinguished. The subject would then be
told to gaze deeply into the mirror and to relax, clearing his or her mind of
everything but thoughts of the deceased person. The subject could stay in the
chamber as long as he or she wanted, but would be asked not to wear a watch so
that he or she would not be tempted to glance at the time.
An attendant would sit in the next room during the entire session,
prepared to render any assistance needed. When the subject emerged, an
extended processing session would be conducted, during which the subject would
discuss what had happened. He or she would be allowed to ventilate feelings
and discuss the entire experience until the subject felt that there was
nothing more to discuss. Sometimes these debriefing sessions would go on for
more than an hour.
Before the first subject was guided through a mirror-gazing session, I
had assumed that only a small percentage of the subjects -- maybe one out of
the ten -- would experience an apparition. I also believed that all the
subjects would be dubious about the "reality" of the encounter and would be
unsure if what had happened was "real" or just "in their minds."
The picture that emerged from the experience, however, is dramatically
different from what I initially imagined. After conducting just ten people
through the process of visionary facilitation, I realized that it was possible
to recreate the relatively common, though previously unpredictable, experience
of seeing apparitions of the deceased. Of the ten I ushered through the
process, five saw apparitions of their departed relatives. Later, after
improving my facilities and refining my technique, I conducted visionary
facilitations with even better results.
A typical case was a man who wanted to see his late mother. He came
to me after hearing a talk that I gave in New Jersey in which I discussed the
possibilities of mirror gazing.
He told me that his mother had passed away the previous year and that
he missed her greatly. His father had died when he was young, leaving his
mother to care for him. As a result he formed an unusually strong attachment
to her and had grieved deeply since her death.
I probed into his personal history. He was in his mid-forties and was
in a high-level position at a certified public accounting firm in New York
City. He had never been treated for any sort of psychological problems.
I thought he would be an excellent subject for the research project.
Not only was he a willing subject able to understand the process, but he fit
the other criteria for being in the study as well.
I was excited when he asked to fly down and spend a day with me. When
he arrived for his session, we followed the protocol outlined above. In the
morning we took a long walk in the country and talked about his motivations
for wanting to see his late mother.
I have always found exercise to be a tremendously effective means of
freeing up a person's thoughts. There are even some psychologists who make
walking and running a part of their regular method of therapy. So it was with
this subject. As we walked, he began to tell stories about his mother. And as
he told stories of her sacrifices as a single mother, he was clearly moved by
"She was very sick at the end of her life," he said. "I guess that one
of the reasons I want to see her again is to make sure she is happy wherever
After lunch we looked through photo albums with picture after picture
of him and his mother as they had aged over the years. The early pictures
revealed a robust and happy woman, but the photos at the end of the album
showed a woman ravaged by age and illness. In some of them the face of this
man was pressed close to his mother's. Although he was smiling, it was clear
from the pictures that his mother's failing condition was wearing heavily on
We examined the mementos he had brought. There was a sweater she had
worn later in life, along with a hat she had worn when she was young.
"Clothing has memory," he said, explaining these particular mementos.
"I wanted to bring something along that would remind me of how she felt and
even how she moved."
In the evening I took this man into the apparition chamber and
explained the procedure to him. Then I left him alone. Nearly an hour later he
emerged. He had a smile on his face, and tears were running down his cheeks.
He was elated at what had happened, he said. We sat down in my office where he
told me what he had seen:
There is no doubt that the person I saw in the mirror was my mother.
I don't know where she came from, but I am convinced that what I saw was the
real person. She was looking out at me from the mirror. I couldn't tell what
clothing she was wearing, but I could tell that she was in her later
seventies, about the same age as she was when she died. However, she looked
healthier and happier than she had at the end of her life.
Her lips didn't move, but she spoke to me, and I clearly heard what
she had to say. She said, "I'm fine," and smiled happily.
I stayed as relaxed as I could and just looked at her. My hands were
tingling, and I could feel my heartbeat pick up speed. Then I decided to talk
to her. I said, "It's good to see you again." "It's good to see you too,"
she replied. That was it. She simply disappeared.
The experience made him relax about his mother's death. "Just from
what I saw and heard, I can see that she is no longer in pain like she was
in her last days," he said. "That alone removes a lot of stress from my life."
The subject was sure that his mother was truly in that mirror, but he
was not prepared to say where the image of her came from. It may have been
some form of memory, or it may truly have been the spirit body of his mother,
he said. But whatever the answer was, he was not able to deliver it. "I don't
know exactly what caused it, but I do know that I saw my mother."
One of my favorite subjects from these early cases was a physician
from the West Coast who came to have a reunion with his late aunt. Instead,
an unexpected reunion took place with his departed nephew. The encounter left
him in an awkward position. This, too, was an auditory experience, and it left
the subject firmly convinced that he had spoken to the young boy. Here is his
story in his words:
I had not really been planning to meet up with my nephew while I was
there in the apparition room. I sat there for what seemed like a long period
of time. As I was sitting there trying to force a vision, nothing was coming
up of any significance. All of a sudden I stopped forcing it and just sat back
and relaxed. I was figuring, Well, I'm not going to be able to have my
That is when I suddenly had a very strong sense of the presence of my
nephew, who had committed suicide. I was close to this nephew, who was named
after my father and me.
There was this very strong sense of his presence, and I heard his
voice very clearly. He was talking to me. He greeted me and he brought me a
very simple message. He said, "Let my mother know that I am fine and that I
love her very much."
This experience was very profound. I know he was there with me. I
didn't see anything, but I had a very strong sense of him and of his presence.
This voice is different from just having a thought, and it is not exactly like
the regular experience of hearing a voice. It is like being spoken to mentally.
I cannot say exactly what it is, but I can say what it is not. It is a form of
communication. I feel sure that I was in communication with my nephew.
This visionary encounter presented an interpersonal dilemma for the
physician. He felt completely confident that he had actually been in the
presence of his departed nephew. He also felt an obligation to do as he had
agreed to do, which was to pass his nephew's message on to his sister. He was
unsure how his sister would react to this news and whether she would think
that he had lost his mind.
He told me that he had tentatively decided to broach the subject by
telling his sister that he had had an extremely vivid dream. When I spoke with
him eight months later, he had decided to tell his sister the truth about how
the encounter had come about. She proved to be very understanding about her
A woman came to see her late grandfather. She brought a photo album
and openly discussed her love for him as she thumbed through the pages of
pictures. Although she went into the mirror booth fully expecting to see her
grandfather, neither one of us was prepared for what happened.
I was so happy to see him that I began to cry. Through the tears I
could still see him in the mirror. Then he seemed to get closer, and he must
have come out of the mirror because the next thing I knew he was holding me and
hugging me. It felt like he said something like, "It's OK, don't cry."
Before I knew it, he was gone. I can still feel his touch. I also feel
warm, like someone has been hugging me.
It was great to see him again. He was happy, and that's good. Even
though I miss him, it's nice to know that he's happy where he is.
That she would actually feel her grandfather's embrace surprised me,
even though tactile encounters with ghosts are quite common in the
parapsychology research. In one study 13 percent of the contacts with the dead
were of the tactile variety. Typical of these are widows who feel their
deceased husbands, often when lying in bed. Although I was familiar with the
research on "feeling" ghosts in the scientific literature, I didn't expect it
to happen with the participants of this study. It happened not only to this
subject but to others as well.
I have been conducting mirror-gazing research at what I now call the
Theater of the Mind since 1990. In this time I have helped facilitate
forty-nine attempted apparitional encounters of which thirty-five were
successful. Here are some of the more surprising findings:
Many subjects encounter a deceased person other than the one they
prepared to see. All of the subjects prepared to see a specific person. Yet
approximately one fourth of the subjects saw a different deceased relative.
Apparitions were not confined to the mirror. In about 10 percent of
the cases the apparitions seemed to come out of the mirror and into the
surrounding environment. Subjects would often report that they were "touched"
by the apparition or that they could feel the deceased person standing next to
them. In my case, however, an apparition of my departed grandmother expressly
forbade me to touch her.
The flip side of this scenario also took place. About 10 percent of
the subjects reported taking journeys into the looking glass, where they
encountered departed relatives in the mirror.
Actual conversations took place. Never once during my initial research
did it enter my mind that the subjects might communicate with the presences
they visited at the psychomanteum. Yet in almost 50 percent of the cases
complex communications were reported. These ranged from a few words of
reassurance and love to lengthy and involved communications, even to
In approximately 15 percent of the cases the subjects said that they
actually heard the voice of the deceased person. I don't mean that they heard
it in the way that one hears one's own thoughts. I mean they heard it as
though it were audible. Others report the communication as a sort of
telepathy, as though the apparitions and the subjects immediately understood
each other's thoughts and feelings without needing to speak.
Apparitions appear later. Roughly 25 percent of those seeking reunions
didn't have them until after they had left the psychomanteum. This means that
they saw the departed loved one when they returned to their hotel room or
home, or, in my case, when I went into another room. Usually such a reunion
took place within twenty four hours.
Reunions are thought of as "real." To my amazement it became clear
that the visionary reunions were being experienced as real events, not
fantasies or dreams. So far almost all of the subjects have asserted that their
encounters were completely real and that they had actually been in the living
presence of loved ones lost to death.
The person who has undergone this experience is powerfully affected by
it. Although the subjects are guided through this experience in a clinical
setting, I believe they are having a spiritual experience of a positive and
transformative nature. All the indications are there:
* A paranormal event has taken place that shakes the foundation of the
* It is a positive experience that speaks to a deep spiritual need.
* It changes the subject's outlook on the meaning of life.
My observations and intuitions tell me that the changes that take
place in a person who mirror-gazes are similar to those that take place in a
person who has had a near-death experience. Such people become kinder, more
understanding, and less afraid of death.
A woman who came for a visionary reunion with her son sums it up
better than I can. Her son had died two years before she came to my
psychomanteum. He died of cancer, which he had been fighting for several years.
His battle against this disease had been typical of the many who fight it. The
cancer would go into remission, and just as they thought that it had been
beaten, it would come raging back again. Finally, after several relapses, he
simply gave up.
The woman missed her son terribly. She came to the psychomanteum in
hopes of seeing him one more time, just to see if the pain was gone.
We prepared all day for the encounter, and then I had her go into the
apparition booth. The experience she had was satisfying. She saw a number of
"memory visions," vivid snippets from his childhood. She also reported a strong
sense that her son had been present with her in the booth. "He was sitting
there with me," she said when she came out. "We sat there together and watched
events from our life together."
A few days later I received an incredible call from her. A few days
after her visit to my clinic, she awoke from a deep sleep. She didn't simply
wake up, she became "hyperawake. Far more awake than normal."
There, standing in her room, was her son. As she sat up in bed to look
at him, she could see that the ravages of cancer were gone. He now looked
vibrant and happy as he had before his disease.
The woman was in a state of ecstasy. She stood up and faced her son
and began carrying on a conversation. She estimates that they spoke for
several minutes, time enough for her to find that he was now pain-free and
They talked about a number of things, including the remodeling that
the woman had done to the house after the son had died. She even took him on
a tour of some of the rooms where changes had been made to show him what had
Finally it dawned on her what was happening. She was talking to an
apparition of her late son. "I couldn't believe it was him," she said to me.
"So I asked if I could touch him."
Without a moment's hesitation this apparition of her son stepped
forward and hugged her. Then, the woman said, he lifted her right off the
ground and over his head.
"What happened was as real as if he had been standing right there,"
the woman told me. "I now feel as though I can put my son's death behind me
and get on fully with my life."
Compelled by visions like that, I, too, press on.
Excerpted from Reunions: Visionary Encounters with Departed Loved Ones.
Copyright 1993 by Raymond Moody, M.D., with Paul Perry. Reprinted by
arrangement with Villard Books, a division of Random House. You can order the
book by calling (800) 733-3000 to oredr the book for $20.00. Please
refer to REUNIONS (Item 0-679-42570-5).
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