It is widely believed that when we leave for the other world, friends, relatives and other loved ones who have departed from earth earlier are there to receive us, to welcome us. Often, they arrive on earth when we are taking our last breaths and are on the verge of leaving our physical body and escort us, along with spirit guides and sometimes, messengers of the God of Death, to the other world. This has been corroborated down the ages by innumerable reliable accounts, especially of trained care givers present at the terminal moment such as doctors, nurses, relatives and so on. But the big question is, if those friends, relatives and other loved ones have departed from earth earlier and no longer reside in a physical body, how can we recognise them? A soul is, after all, known to be formless. But the “formlessness” of souls, ghosts and a range of spirit entities have also been known to attain a recognisbale form.

From personal experience I’ve written earlier about how, years ago, I once unexpectedly encountered Babaji,  the father of our tenant in Delhi. Dressed in pyjamas and a crumpled kurta, he was moving towards the wash basin with a tooth brush in his hand. I wished him respectfully and then it hit me. Babaji? How could it be? He had died in this very house, months ago. I must have fainted because when I recovered my senses, I was on the floor. Later, I found from Babaji’s family that he manifested regularly but was visible only to the elder daughter-in-law, who like me, fainted each time she saw him.

Just a few days after he had passed away, my father returned to reassure me. There was a luminous glow surrounding him and he was in a much younger reincarnation. He still visits me every now and then and is clearly recognisable and wearing clothes he used to wear when alive. Accounts of ghosts from earlier eras also mention that they were wearing the styled clothes of the period in which they lived. Ghosts wearing clothes puzzled me for years because though I have come across many hazy forms, I have yet to come across a nude ghost, and that’ll be a subject for a future column with just a hint here : the clothes are linked to the process of materialisation.

According to Carmar Paranormal Investigations, human spirits use energy around them to materialise. “As researchers we do know of a couple of basic processes that a human spirit can go through to bring about its own materialisation… One requires a human presence the other doesn’t… When an earthbound spirit needs a human presence to manifest, it then engages in a complex process of energy transference from a living being to give itself substance. Surrounding the living body of every living thing is an aura which is caused by a natural discharge of energy from the body.”

The spirit will draw small amounts of energy which it collects from a living being and uses the combined heat and electromagnetic energy in the surroundings to help manifest itself. Collecting energy from a living being could also explain why people tend to faint, apart from fear, in the presence of a materialised form. Another way for materialisation, explains Carmar Paranormal Investigations is by using the atmosphere. “On humid days where there is a lot of rain or fog or on stormy nights when there is a natural electrical energy charge in the atmosphere. A human spirit can use this energy in the air to help itself manifest. When a ghost or apparition manifests in this way, there tends to be an intense smell of ozone in the room, and the end result seems to come across as a bluish glow around the apparition.”

According to Wikipedia, in spiritualism, paranormal literature and some religions, materialisation is the creation or appearance of matter from unknown sources. “The existence of materialisation has not been confirmed by laboratory experiments. Numerous cases of fraudulent materialisation demonstrations by mediums have been exposed.” In this context, a documentary Can Spirits Materialise? by Dr Keith Parsons is worth watching. Regarded as a sequel to This Life, Next Life, it contains a great deal of photographic evidence regarding spirit materialisation with many claims that it is all simply fake.

The blurb asks: “So what is the truth? This documentary may help you decide for yourself.” The documentary received both bouquets and brick bats with revealing responses from believers and skeptics alike. A brick bat sampling: Blair MacEwan Crosbie wrote “Please, please. please!!! the images are sp obviously faked. A child could tell you so. What is it about Spritualists? Why can they just not accept that physical death is the end of a particular entity? We ALL want to think/believe that physical death is not the extermination of a ‘self’. But, if you have done any research into this matter you will know there is NO self. It is a fabrication and an illusion. At the end, all the religious and so called ‘spiritual people’ just cannot accept extinction.”

But others question the criticism. Forest Pepper, for example wrote: “As you point out, the argument: ‘I don’t understand how this could be possible, and therefore it must be impossible,’ is a rather weak argument.  That scientists cannot understand nor reproduce psychic phenomena does not absolutely prove that psychic phenomena do not occur.” Another thread on the Net questions: Wouldn’t we have armies of materialised ghosts among us if it was easy to materialise? “And wouldn’t there be a lot of animal ghosts who materialise too? Though I’d imagine animals wouldn’t cling so much to earthly things because death seems to be different to them, they take death differently. I feel like animals know to leave things behind easier than humans, though at least some of them seem to have the same sentience when it comes to death.” In the same vein, the explanation of how souls can manifest in a recognisable form, a form in which you knew them on earth and for how long they can remain recognisable is fascinating but you’ll have to wait for the next column.

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