PSICAN - Paranormal Studies and Inquiry Canada

PSI events - Psychic phenomena

Written by John Savoie

mirror and clouds

Abstract


A Psychomanteum room involving mirror-gazing was constructed in a research environment to establish a safe, data-driven study to explore the experiences and effects upon a random group of individuals in regards to spirit contact including establishing a connection to deceased relatives and friends. The initial stage of research brought together ten individuals over a series of sessions which resulted in emotionally strong experiences and over eight reported contacts. The process involved three parts: a. having the participant relax for up to one hour in a meditative state, b. having the participant either sit, or lay in the Pyschomanteum darkened room for up to one hour while starring directly at or slightly away from various sized mirrors, and c. returning to the relaxation room to reflect and record their individual experiences. Each individual participant was allowed to enter the Psychomanteum as many times as they wished throughout the six month study period. Participants report visuals, auditory and non-audible experiences while in the Psychomanteum with several individuals indicating the experience has either enforced or changed their perspective on spirit contact.

Over the course of six months participants engaged the Psychomanteum to establish contact with what they believed to be spirits of deceased relatives, friends and even historical figures as well as spirits of strangers. This research is not intended to claim that the individual participants engaged in spirit contact, not is it establishing that the claims of spirit contact were genuine. The goal was to obtain data on participant’s experiences within the Psychomanteum and to report on their emotional and spiritual effects.

40% of individuals reported having and experience where they believed they had contact with a deceased relative or friend. 30% reported having contact with persons they did not know. 20% reported seeing visuals of what they believed to be non-human forms. 100% of participants reported visual or audible anomalies. 80% reported a positive experience.  20% reported a negative experience.

 

hands and empty mirror

 

The Participants

Participants were volunteers aged 19 to 58 years of age and consisted of six females and four males. Each participant was told a brief history of Mirror Gazing and what they should do while inside the Psychomanteum. It was expressed that there was no official stance, nor claim to any experience including spirit contact was made. All individuals were free of prescription medicines, alcohol, and non-prescription drugs during the research. Individuals were asked if they would like to contact a deceased relative or friend or if they would rather see who would want to contact them.

Participant A
Age: 19
Gender: F
Employment: Makeup Artist
Religion: Agnostic
Believes in Spirit Contact: Y
Believes they will have a positive experience: Y
Wants to contact a deceased relative or friend: Y

Session #1
Participant A explained she wanted to establish contact with a deceased friend who had passed on two years prior. She explained she was nervous about making contact and thought that she would not be mentally strong enough to continue if contact was made. During her meditation and relaxation she indicated she had strong feelings about this deceased friend and felt a “warm embrace” and that “she knew she was around.” Within the Psychomanteum, she said that she felt dizzy, often saw flashes of light, and saw what she believed to be a figure standing a fair distance who was holding something in their hands. The figure was said to be blurry, but would come and go in and out of focus. When she spoke out loud and asked “Who are you?” the vision disappeared and it took more than an estimated ten minutes to re-establish a visual contact with the human form, however, the figure was even more distant and severely out of focus than before. The participant could not focus and reported having eye-strain and a mild headache.

Session #2
Participant A remained in the Psychomanteum for an estimated twenty minutes and said she heard whispers that seemed distant, and then heard her name called out three times. She said she did not feel as apprehensive or worried and simply “let her mind go”. She explains that she felt as if she was moving forward but knew she was sitting still. This time three figures are said to have materialized in front of her. Two were dark and distant, while a third standing off to the right was more in focus and she could see details. It was of a male figure who nodded, but then his face was distorted and it melted into the darkness. Suddenly, another figure came into view, but mostly just its eyes were seen. Participant A says the eyes were unmistakably that of her deceased friend. At this time Participant A said she started to weep, and the vision was blurry, but she felt very comfortable and said “Hello”. In her mind, and not audible she heard the words coming from the voice of her deceased friend saying, “All is well, do not worry. Live on.” When the words were spoken, a chorus of whispers and what is described as a static noise came forward and the three images of the dark individuals once again dominated the vision. They turned and walked away slowly revealing darkness and a few flashes of light behind them. Participant A says the entire episode seemed like it happened in a timely fashion and she does not recall having sat in the Psychomanteum for 60 minutes before the process was stopped.


Participant B
Age: 44
Gender: M
Employment: Marketing Professional
Religion: Baptist
Believes in Spirit Contact: Y
Believes they will have a positive experience: Y
Wants to contact a deceased relative or friend: Y

Session #1
Participant B explained they wished to contact their father who had been deceased for 21 years. He remained extremely confident that he would have a positive experience and that he would make contact as he had done so before while in a state of anxiety and grief. Participant B explained that they always feel their father around. They explained that after about twenty minutes they believed they felt the spirit of their father and said that they could see shapes of object and perhaps faces, but could not make them out in detail. They said that they could feel a touch on their shoulder and believe this to be their deceased father. Participant B said they spoke out loud and within their mind to establish contact and to ask specific questions, however, they said they did not hear an audible sound besides what sounded like “Waves” and a few clicks that were sporadic throughout the session. Participant B planned to continue trying to make contact via mirror gazing within their own home.


Participant C
Age: 30
Gender: M
Employment: Firearms Instructor
Religion: None
Believes in Spirit Contact: Maybe
Believes they will have a positive experience: Y
Wants to contact a deceased relative or friend: N

Session #1

Participant C was skeptical about mirror-gazing and suggested it was probably used historically to scare enemies into believing their army had certain mystical powers. He explained that was probably the case with the Ancient Greeks. He did not wish to contact any specific deceased relatives or friends and was simply open to the idea of trying the Psychomanteum and seeing what, if anything, would come forward to him. The session was broken up several times as the large pillar candle used for lighting was blown out. There was no breeze or draft that would have caused the candle to blow out and the participant said they had no intention of disrupting the process and wished to continue. Eventually, the candle was replaced by a stationary flashlight angled up towards the mirror. The Participant said it took a long time before they were in a comfortable state of mind and “let their imagination flow”. Suddenly, and without warning the Participant walked out of the Psychomanteum and said they were done. At that time the Participant said, “Its just too freaky.” Later in a follow up conversation to ask he would like to participant in a second session, they suggested that they saw what appeared to be a dark brown cloaked figure would seemed to have “come out of the mirror toward me”. The participant said they felt fear and wanted the vision to end, but it did not. Instead the figure appeared to be standing closer to the participant and then “what felt like behind and in front.” The Participant says they are unsure if there was two figures or just one. He tried to remain calm and see the face for details, but said he could not see the face. He felt as if the figures were not to be trusted, and decided to stand up and exit the Psychomanteum ending his session. He decided not to try another session and indicated he now has a “fear of mirrors”.


Participant D
Age: 58
Gender: M
Employment: Retired Doctor of Psychology
Religion: None
Believes in Spirit Contact: N
Believes they will have a positive experience: Undecided
Wants to contact a deceased relative or friend: N

Session #1
Participant D indicated that with their knowledge, they have come with preconceived beliefs on what could and would happen. They indicated that they would probably have some sort of hallucinatory experience. They indicated that they are not religious, do not believe in an afterlife and has no intention of seeking out any deceased spirit. Participant D said they were unsure of what would happen, and suggested that with some suggestion, the visions and experiences could either be positive or negative. I encouraged the participant to think positive thoughts. After exiting the Psychomanteum after 40 minutes, Participant D said they did indeed see some lights buzzing about, heard some noises and what looked like a room within the mirror. They explained that this was perfectly normal, and that one did not need a Psychomanteum or even a mirror to perform the experiment. He suggested the same thing could have “...worked in a dark bedroom, simply laying in bed staring at the ceiling” Participant D does not believe they had contacted any spirits and said everything he saw was not based on “any supernatural event.”

Participant E
Age: 39
Gender: M
Employment: Marketing Professional
Religion: None
Believes in Spirit Contact: Y
Believes they will have a positive experience: Y
Wants to contact a deceased relative or friend: Y

Session #1
Participant E suggested they would like to contact a number of deceased relatives and it would not matter which was contacted, or which one came forward. Within the Psychomanteum the Participant said they felt dizzy and could see flecks of light. As the session continued the participant felt anxiety and fear which they attributed to a wild imagination coupled with an interest in the Horror genre. Participant E decided to end the session early and to start a new session as to get a more accurate and less suggestive experience.

Session #2
Participant E said they felt much better during a second session and once again saw flashes of light, and  objects that were not recognized, but within the mirror. They said their eyes began to strain and tear when they finally saw what appeared to be a monk-like figure in a dark robe in the distance of the Psychomanteum. The figure was motionless, and the mirror images began to appear as if they were “underwater”. The eye strain caused the Participant to end the session near the 45 minute mark.

Session #3
Participant E was within the Psychomanteum for about 10 minutes when they began to call out to see their deceased relatives but as he had done so, nothing out of the ordinary happened. However, upon exiting the Psychomanteum they said they felt a particular presence of a deceased relative “around them.”

Session #4, #5, #6
Participant E continued within the Pyschomanteum and saw visuals of light, and again blurry objects and images they could not describe fully. They indicated they did not make any contact with deceased relatives but once out of the Psychomanteum they felt “odd” and “open inside”. They said they could not describe the feeling totally, but said “I knew I was getting closer to some sort of contact, but I also felt different about it. Perhaps I wasn't supposed to be doing this, or I was in the wrong.”

Session #7
Participant E said they finally made contact with what they believe could be a spirit. A face was said to appear out of the darkened mirror that was oddly familiar. Not audible, but understood, the person in the mirror said “Hi” and continued to say “I'm Robert Parker” The participant then recognized the face as Robert Leroy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy, of Old West Lore. The participant said they have an active interest in the Old West and that perhaps they were self-inducing an experience. Participant E said the image then said to “Tell the truth” and to “...tell my story”. The face was then said to have faded and a stillness remained without any other visuals or auditory experiences.

Session #8 #9 #10
Participant E said they believe they are seeing or “feeling” the same person as the last session, but they do not speak, nor come forward but “simply listen” No other visuals or auditory experiences were recorded.

Participant F
Age: 27
Gender: F
Employment: Marketing Professional
Religion: None
Believes in Spirit Contact: Y
Believes they will have a positive experience: Y
Wants to contact a deceased relative or friend: Y

Session #1
Participant F wanted to communicate with either a deceased relative or friend, but preferred not to go into detail about the person they wished to communicate with. After about 20 minutes in the Psychomanteum they said they felt dizzy, saw movement, or shadows out of the corner of their eyes but said that they did not feel as if anything "wanted to speak" to her. After the session she explained she felt as if she was surrounded by something warm and knew someone was there, but could not identify what she believed to be a spirit.

Participant G
Age: 22
Gender: F
Employment: Writer
Religion: Non-Practising Catholic
Believes in Spirit Contact: Y
Believes they will have a positive experience: Y
Wants to contact a deceased relative or friend: Y

Session #1
Participant G indicated they wished to speak to their Grandfather and indicated they were very nervous about an encounter. Within the Psychomanteum, they said they saw wisps of "smoke" and envisioned a room with a bed. The participant could not see any human forms within the vision but felt something wet upon her arm, and then a nudge. She glanced down and for a second or two, believes she saw her deceased dog, a Burmese Mountain Dog, at her side.

Session #2
Participant G indicated during this session she would try to re-establish contact with her deceased dog. Throughout the time in the Psychomanteum, she said she saw her dog out of the corner of her eye, or playing in a distant field. After, she reported that she felt as if her pet was in a good place and she said she felt relieved.


Participant H
Age: 25
Gender: F
Employment: Marketing Coordinator
Religion: Christian
Believes in Spirit Contact: Y
Believes they will have a positive experience: Y
Wants to contact a deceased relative or friend: N

Session #1
Participant H remained in the Psychomanteum for nearly 30 minutes before they exited and felt as if they experiment may "open doors" that she did not know she wanted to open. She felt scared afterwards and said that she saw dark shadow-like entities, possibly with hoods that she feared. She said the vision came suddenly and she felt afraid, and looked away causing the vision to end. At this point she exited and said she would not like to continue.

Participant I
Age: 35
Gender: M
Employment: Sales
Religion: None
Believes in Spirit Contact: Undecided
Believes they will have a positive experience: Y
Wants to contact a deceased relative or friend: N

Session #1
Participant I indicated they did not wish to contact any deceased relative or friend but said they wanted to see what would come to them, instead of initiating contact. They indicated that they heard what sounded like a washing machine tumbling, and saw visions of mountains, of a helicopter buzzing over them and then felt as if he was falling through the floor. He indicated he stood up and then sat back down. Once again he could hear sounds and then a voice that said "Hello Mark" - the participants first name. He responded "Hello" but did not have any other experiences.

Participant J
Age: 39
Gender: M
Employment: Landman
Religion: Roman Catholic
Believes in Spirit Contact: Y
Believes they will have a positive experience: Y
Wants to contact a deceased relative or friend: Y

Session #1
Participant J wanted to contact their deceased mother and indicated they had tried communication using a Ouija board on two previous endeavours. Upon entering the Psychomanteum the participant felt ill, but proceeded until 25 minutes into the experiment where they said they felt too ill to continue. Inside, they reported seeing flashes of moving objects, and the face of his dead mother inside a picture frame. He also said he felt as if she was trying to help him overcome his illness.

Session #2
Participant J entered the Psychomantuem wanting to see and communicate with his deceased mother. Upon exiting he said he had seen her outside of the mirror standing and smiling. He was reassured she was in a good place and he said "It was peaceful."

 

 

The History of the Pyschomanteum

The psychomanteum dates back to ancient times, where a person would gaze into a still pool of water. This silent and steady gazing into a reflective pool would produce apparitions or visions.

In 1958, Greek archaeologist, Sotiris Dakaris investigated the Dodona oracle spoken of by Homer and Herodotus, where supplicants would wait their turn at the oracle in complete darkness. An extensive maze led to a long central apparition hallway where the experience took place. There Dakaris found the remnants of a bronze cauldron ringed with a banister which made it appear that the people who were seeing the apparitions would be gazing at the cauldron.

 

ancient tunnels

 

Mention of a ritual process for contacting the dead can be found in many of the writings of the ancient Greeks. The writings described how individuals were guided through subterranean chambers over a series of several days, and finally taken into an area, a "necromanteum", containing what is believed to have been a large cauldron-type vessel. Water or oil  filled the vessel providing a reflective surface for the initiated individual to contact the dead.

 

Dr. Raymond Moody modified this process to fit more in the modern day. He coined the term "psychomanteum". Dr. Irene Blinston expanded and modified Dr. Moody's psychomanteum, and psychomanteum process, developing "The Portal".

 

Moody newspaper article


The Portal is a very dark, dimly lit chamber varying in size. At one end of the chamber is a chair and at the other end a mirror. The mirror is tilted at an angle so the sitter is prevented from seeing his or her own reflection.

Dr. Moody focused his study on contact made by means of apparitional encounters experienced during his psychomanteum process. The psychomanteum research conducted at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, CA, has focused its efforts on the reduction of the symptoms of grief. Dr. Blinston was a part of that research unit for 3 years. Currently there are two doctoral students conducting research on different aspects of the psychomanteum.

book cover

Psychological Effect

The room is set up to optimize psychological effects such as trance. Its key features are low light or near-darkness, flickering light, and a mirror. The dimness represents a form of visual sensory deprivation, a condition helpful to trance induction, the undifferentiated colour without horizon producing the Ganzfeld effect, a state of apparent "blindness".

The Ganzfeld experiment replicates the conditions of a psychomanteum where a state of trance may be induced by a uniform field of vision. In the way of strobe or flashing light, stimulus is provided by indirect, moving light in the psychomanteum. Flickering candles or lamps are sometimes recommended to induce hallucination. It is supposed the indeterminate depth of the mirror’s darkness allows the eyes to relax and become unfocused, a state that reduces alertness.

 

Reunions book cover

 

Dr. Raymond Moody, author of the 1981 book about near death experiences, Life After Life, included the psychomanteum in his research trialling 300 subjects which he recorded in his 1993 book, Reunions. Moody viewed the room as a therapeutic tool to heal grief and bring insight.

oracle



Uncovering The True History of the Greek Psychomanteum

The Oracles of the Ancient Greeks are often connected to the Psychomanteum process. What is often neglected, in the history, is that the Oracle and temples were constructed to deceive the participants.

Those wishing to consult the Oracle would travel to subterranean caverns and placed in isolation chambers. Here they fasted, were fed purifying diets, and underwent various sorts of stress - sensory deprivation, exhaustion and disorientation - all designed to induce visions. Shamans, anchorites and other visionaries have used similar techniques. And similar hallucinations are experienced by volunteers in modern sensory deprivation experiments. Floating in womb-like vats of water in blackened, soundproof chambers, many subjects begin to go mad after a few hours, and beg to be pulled out. Imagine, then, the state of mind of the pilgrims at Ephyra after days of such treatments.

After several days, or even weeks, of such treatments the pilgrims were ready to meet the souls of the dead. Just to make sure, before they started to walk through the hallucinogenic smoke of the labyrinth and descend to the Sacred Hall in the underground cavern, they were given hallucinogenic leaves or seeds to chew, such as lupin seeds and a type of swamp bean whose traces have been found in jars near the ancient sites.

They were then led to the mouth of Hades where they would meet the dead.

Perhaps the only ones who lacked faith in the oracles were the priests who conducted and profited from them. They called themselves, like the god Hermes, "psychopomps," "conductors of souls." But during the Roman period in 167 BC iron bars and a bronze winch with toothed pulley wheels and counterweights were discovered in the Sacred Hall. While tourists today are lowered into it by a similar mechanism, the ancient one had been installed to dangle ghostly wooden figures into the smoke-filled, torch-lit chamber, while the priests would impersonate and send down the voices of dead relatives and respond to the questions of the faithful. It was an old trick, of course - the old "deus ex machina" or "god from the machine" of the ancient Greek theatre.

However, Raymond Moody who has for years been collecting evidence for the afterlife was told when he visited the place that the pilgrims saw the dead, not floating like ghosts in a smoky space overhead, but as ghostly reflections "in the polished metal cauldron that dominated the room. At the rim of the cauldron they would be told to gaze into the shimmering metal and behold the vision that they came to see." Were these reflections of figures dangling out of sight above them?

ruins

 

After the machinery of the spectral apparitions came to light, the Romans destroyed the Necromanteion at Ephyra, and its ruins lay hidden until they were excavated in 1958 and restored by the Archaeological Society of Athens.

So is the idea of the Psychomanteum based on trickery?


The Modern Day Psychomanteum

A psychomanteum is a darkened room with black walls, containing a mirror into which a person gazes and sees prophetic visions. It is commonly built in the form of a black felt tent containing a large swivel mirror tilted slightly to show only a featureless blackness of indeterminate depth. A small lamp or set of candles illuminates the space just enough to distinguish the mirror.

The psychomanteum is designed to induce an open-eye trance in the viewer, allowing the conscious mind to perceive visual impressions from the subconscious and other realms beyond normal waking perception. There are several factors helping induce such a trance.

First, the room is dim and featureless. This acts as a form of visual sensory deprivation, a condition helpful to trance induction. Secondly the uniform color of the setup is a pre-requisite for creating the Ganzfeld Effect, a hallucinogenic state of trance induced by a uniform field of vision. Third, the candles or lamp are often recommended to be flickering, and strobing/flashing light is a strong catalyst for trance. And fourth, the indeterminate depth of the mirror’s darkness allows the eyes to focus outward to infinity, a relaxation that sympathetically lowers one’s state of consciousness.

An open-eye trance allows the mind to perceive visual information that is normally filtered out during waking beta brainwave activity. When using a psychomanteum, brainwaves drop into the alpha and theta range, easing the generating of hypnogogic imagery. What science calls noise or hallucination may in fact be meaningful perceptions. Just as in dreams, the subconscious can create visual symbols and vignettes that the perceiver can then remember for conscious analysis after the psychomanteum session.


Building Your Own Psychomanteum


It is easy to build your own Psychomanteum and try this and other experiments with it yourself. http://www.manteum.com/manthome.html has good instructions on how to complete your own.


Further Reading

Dr. Moody's web site
http://www.lifeafterlife.com

"The Psychomanteum" with Arthur Hastings
http://noetic.org/library/audio-teleseminars/arthur-hastings-psychomanteum/

How to Use a Psychomanteum
http://www.near-death.com/experiences/triggers18.html

The History of the Pyschomanteum

http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/column.php?id=257269

Experiencing the Psychomanteum, by Joe Nickell

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/experiencing_the_psychomanteum/

Instructions on How To Build Your Own Psychomanteum

http://www.manteum.com/manthome.html

Oracle of the Dead
http://www.oracleofthedead.com/

Strange As A Whisper I Am There Looking Glass - Experiments with a psychomanteum                                                                                                                                         http://blog.susanstclair.com/

 

Image Sources

To the best of our knowledge the photos and images used within the body of this article are all non-copyrighted with the exception of the Oracle of the Dead photos, and the big tunnel pic where credit goes to ancient-origins.org If we have used a photo or image that and it either belongs to you or you know where credit should be given please contact us and let us know admin@psican.org

 


Visual Journey of the Original Oracle of the Dead