Communicating With the Dead: Reach Beyond The Grave Book Review by Nightcat
Reach Beyond The Veil
One of the questions humans have had ever since we evolved into the thinking beings that we are is whether or not we have souls, and if so, what happens to those souls when we die? Do people who have passed on still think about us? Can they still be communicated with? To the pure skeptic such questions are nonsense. We die and shut off much like a computer. There is no soul and therefore spirit communication is impossible.
On the other end of the extreme is the pure believer who believes everything and does not need proof. He or she simply knows there is an afterlife, just as the non-believer knows there is not. But most of us fall somewhere in between. We'd at least like to think that there is an afterlife because the idea is a comforting one. The idea that death is not the end, that we will still be essentially who we are and will reunited with lost loved ones is a source of comfort to many, and is incorporated into many world religions.
I myself had the benefit of growing up between two viewpoints. My father believed death was the end, full stop. There was nothing after. He believed in his Catholic faith and his patron saint, but for some reason he could also believe that death was the end. My mother, having had a near death experience on the other hand was more open to the idea of spirits, though both taught me to always seek proof of what I believed I was experiencing.
And this guide to spirit communication is much like that. Laid out in easily accessible chapters for each device it not only gives the actual history of each device such as Ouija boards or cameras, but the spiritual communication that some people believe the devices are capable of. And it does so in a way that should please both believers and skeptics.
We can't, after all, prove that spirit communication works. But we can't prove that it doesn't either. Whatever we believe it is just that and we won't have the answers until we too pass on to the other side.
As this book deals with spirit communication I would advise those who feel it is wrong to attempt it for whatever reason give it a pass. But the interested folks out there willing to try and see what answers they find if any, are more than welcome to join me. I've chosen to take a look at a few of the chapters using forms of communication I've personally dealt with, just so I can give my readers additional feedback.
And you know the drill. All writing and photography contained herein are my original work and all other materials are included for educational and entertainment purposes only. If you wish to get credit and a link or something removed, please contact me.
One thing you will notice if you are into spirit communication is that, for example, the chapter on spirit photography focuses primarily on film or instamatic cameras, though it does touch on digital briefly. Other devices may seem a little retro as well, but that is the point. If a device works, the age of said device should not matter, though, admittedly with electronics you can get more temperamental quirks as time goes on.
The only error I noticed was the idea that digital cameras can't get light leaks, they can and do, but the explanation of how easy it is to mistakenly create supposed ghostly phenomena is honest. And I bring this up because if you do your research by and large before the advent of the camera ghosts had several basic forms. A semi-transparent or solid human form. A vapor shaped like a human or a shadow. That was pretty much it.
Suddenly, with cameras everything the camera saw and viewers couldn't explain was proof of the afterlife and now was believed to be a spirit. Bars of light, balls of light, light halos around objects or people, smoke in a room, anything and anything was a ghost. Which, of course made a lot of photographers sigh as they were just quirks in the film or processing itself. And as cameras have improved the amount of quirks we catch goes up.
I myself get quirks when I don't want to such as lens flare or weird streaks of light or what have you. So, how do you know when it's a glitch or a spirit? To Belanger it honestly comes down to belief. You can either believe it is just a camera glitch or truly something special captured on film or SD card.
He presents both friends who do spirit photography and more skeptical photographers who while they will admit every anomaly can't be explained will point out that they just don't know what it is. There are also several photos the photographers sincerely believed were spirits and one where he admittedly realized he'd caught his vaporized breath.
Personally I have done spirit photography. I've also experienced houses where cameras refuse to work and I believe that in those houses I experienced a ghost that was not thrilled with my presence. My advice would be to have an open mind and a respectful attitude. People, if you believe they go on, have a right to be left in peace, so asking permission or politely inviting any spirit that wishes to show up is a nice touch.
Just barging in and aggressively shooting is just as creepy as just barging in to any semi-private place like a neighbor's party or a funeral and snapping away. If you do believe it is a way of spiritually communicating it doesn't hurt to bless yourself or your camera either. If you don't it doesn't hurt to leave believers in peace.
Salem, Mass: Home of Cryptique
Ah, they mystical witch board, massed produced by a game maker, what the hey? Sad, but true. The supposed communication device with the otherworld wasn't even invented to communicate with spirits. It was a sort of racy game at the time, because, gasp, courting coupled could sit with their knees and hands touching.
So, some clergy were not amused, anymore than some clergy were amused when soda shops opened up. Such dens of sinful indulgence! But I digress. I liked this chapter most of all since I've used Ouija boards for ages and frankly, even as a witch I'll tell you it is a cardboard sheet with a sticker front to it. It's no more inherently mystical than a soap bubble. And we can thank the film The Exorcist for the current perception that it is some gateway to the infernal regions.
Which Belanger covers, along with collectors, developers, and the makers of my favorite witch board, the Cryptique. There are of course, the balance of opposing views you should expect, such as Penn and Teller's atheistic view of anything they can't explain, to practicing Salem witches with a flair for the dramatic.
There are practical tips for the users, such as if you are going to use the board you should take steps to protect yourself. Not because of the board being bad or good, but because you open a gateway, whether into your own subconscious or to spirits and you can be vulnerable at times like that to outside influences. Think of it like slipping into deep meditation. You will most of the time have a comforting experience but every so often you can get spooked and a little protection never hurt.
For me, I'd personally advice casting a protective circle or whatever ritual your religion uses. Wear a holy symbol if you wish and you may even bless your board. Good spirits or parts of your mind or however you see it will be attracted in and the bad stuff will be repelled. You can end any session by flipping the board over and once again blessing it.
Do I believe they work? Yes, I do. And to me it doesn't matter if the answers come from me or the beyond, the Ouija can be a useful tool to have in your wheelhouse.
When it comes to looking downright witchy they are only surpassed by crystal balls. There is just something mystical about one, and yes, as a witch that prefers night magic (I have nothing against the day, I'm a natural night owl) I made myself a fairly dramatic looking one out of spray paint and a dollar store frame.
But also as a woman holding a BA with a lifelong interest in psychology, I was happy to see explanations of why the human brain might be making this work. Proving how something works in the human mind, after all, does not negate an outside influence using a black mirror to communicate.
And gazing into any reflective surface was accepted as a form of inducing trance and getting advice for centuries, because more often than not those societies who had oracles who practiced it found that they worked. It would only be when Christianity, and it's objection to any type of prognostication came to power that such practices got the unholy tint they still have to some folks today, where to the God fearing pagans the gift was from the Gods themselves.
So what is it and how does it work? To some the spirits will emerge in the reflective surface when the subject in a light meditative state gazes at the surface long enough. To others, stare at any flat surface and the eyes will eventually try to see beyond it. The brain will then misinterpret the images sent by the eyes and you will have visions or what some would call hallucinations.
In my experience it can work, not to a huge degree, and I've never seen dead relatives show up or anything scary happen. Whether it is my mind tapping into my subconscious or my brain trying to interpret what they eyes see, or spirit communication I honestly don't know. But I do know as the book suggests you can use it creatively as well and I often get reliable answers to simple yes or no questions.
Whether those answers come from within me or the spirit world honestly doesn't matter to me, but I definitely feel a benign presence as I use my black mirror.
I'm part Italian, so learning that Tarot cards originated in Italy as a game for the elite (they are not ancient Gypsy tools of divination and that isn't even a politically correct view, might I add) and were condoned for uses in gambling was amusing. That there is a encyclopedia of them was tempting, and the chapter had a lot of good if brief interviews with both those who view them as fascinating art collections and as a tool we can use for spirit communication.
And, as pointed out, some people use normal playing cards for this as well, and also get results. To the skeptics it is nothing more than the human mind making the cards fit our past, present and future. It might even be a self-fulfilling prophecy. We believe so strongly that a spirit advised us of the future that we make that very future come true through our actions.
But there are a few cases even the skeptics might want to think about. A young woman's life being saved, another finding the courage to move on from a bad relationship. Can these women prove a spirit helped them? No, but the skeptics can't disprove it either, which brings me to the main point of every spiritual communication device.
This classic deck is still my favorite. Some use them singly as meditation guides, some do layouts to answer a question or predict the future. Whether the answers come from, the cards, the reader, or an outside source is still hotly debated, but they are a useful magical tool that rose from the once popular Italian card game.
Don't trust my review, eh?
A skeptic will shout that there is no scientific proof any of these devices work, therefore they are nonsense. A believer will point out that in a lab strapped to a machine, blindfolded or any other concrete test is not the point. With spirit communication you either believe or don't. You have to be willing to believe without concrete proof and that is not something everyone can do.
Admittedly, some forms of spirit communication can be seen as pure chance. That Ouija board session that turned out to have a message that proved something the user couldn't possibly know, or the Tarot session that predicted a future event or pointed out a health problem could be pure luck. Perhaps the user is just intuitive and picks up on things most folks can't.
But if you are willing to believe that life continues on, and that spirits do wish to communicate, any type of device should and can work with varying results. I know that after my father's death we all saw things and felt his presence. Mere grief induced hallucinations or something more? I also knew the moment my mother passed away as I felt a sudden peace and love infuse me. Was I somehow sensing her suffering was over, or a reassurance from Mom that all was still well? I know what I believe and to me that is enough.
And it should be enough to believers that their favorite devices work. You don't need proof from me, a book, or an expert. Don't even waste your time seeking a skeptic's assurance because they will never believe. Just rely on yourself and keep this handy guide around (you'll learn tarot spreads and how to make a black mirror at least) and continue your exploration into the unknown.
Do you believe?
Do you believe spirit communication is possible?
Truly an excellent resource for both skeptics and believers alike. You'll learn about the history of spirit communication, get varying viewpoints and, of course, learn how to make your own tools like black mirrors and how to do a basic tarot spread.