With Samhain (Halloween) coming up, talk naturally turns to ghosts and haunted places. There are a number of theories about what ghosts are and why some ghosts seem to remain in a particular area for a period of time. Let’s set aside, for this post, the various modalities that may produce haunted type phenomenon – strong emotional energy imprinted on a place, electromagnetic energy of various sources either fueling the phenomenon or causing the brains of humans to perceive the phenomenon, Otherworld entities that are not ghosts posing as ghosts for whatever reason, etc – and focus on the definition of a ghost that most people will bring forward if asked: the idea that all or part of the human soul complex might actually become stuck or choose to remain on this physical plane after the death of the physical body.
Now, if we accept this idea of a ghost being a remnant of a person, we are instantly led to the question of why the person is still with us. Again, many theories have been bandied about regarding this phenomenon: the person has unfinished business in our world, the person died suddenly and is having trouble accepting that they are dead, the person is afraid to pass over (hell might await them) and so on. I have had occasion to help some ghosts pass and I can tell you that these are all valid theories. I would like to add another idea to the mix, however, the thought that some people simply have no idea where to go when they die.
We have only to look at works like the Egyptian and Tibetan Books of the Dead to realize that humans have been considering the idea of what happens to them after death for millennia. Unlike the general fear of death and tendency to ignore the whole process typical of North America, these cultures not only viewed death as a natural process but even worked to provide their members (at least the favored ones) with road maps to the afterlife, veritable guide books to the places that the person who has passed would visit and how to get to the most desirable afterlife.
Reading these texts, you will note that they are very culturally and religiously specific thus skeptics, anthropologists and historians tend to dismiss them as quaint folklore or the attempts of a culture to allay their fears about what happens at the end. Of course, most skeptics, anthropologists and historians have never seen the inside of an esoteric temple much less been in one so they would have no idea what they were actually looking at when considering these ancient texts. The Books of the Dead are one of the many forms of the death dream.
Plainly and simply, occultists of varying stripes have known for ages that, when one passes over, it is a good idea to have developed a place to go. Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, the noted occult author and Director of Studies for Servants of the Light, speaks in one of her books (can not recall which one right now) of a project that she and a group of her adepts were involved in where in they helped people form their own death dreams.
These magicians worked with people in hospice and helped them develop a path for the time when they left their bodies. If the person had a specific religious belief then the mages used that belief as the story line for helping the person move on. If the person happened to be agnostic, then they were asked to recall a time in their lives when they were really happy. The adepts then helped the person develop a path out of life that lead to this time of happiness. In essence, the dying person was given a pathworking to work with and they had a chance to rehearse this path many times before their actual passing. The theory was that, when they left their bodies, they should then be able to more easily make it into the afterlife and not become stuck on our plane.
I had a teacher, some time ago, who insisted that we, his students, form at least a rudimentary death dream for ourselves since no one can really be sure of the day and hour of his or her passing. I was with this man for a little over a year and then he passed suddenly. I went to the rite of assistance held by his group for members who had passed over but this fellow did not need any help. I was able to perceive psychically that he had moved through his death dream precisely as he had set it up and the energy of that rite of assistance simply helped him through the final stages of his journey.
I’ve had people argue with me that Near Death Experiences prove that I am full of poodoo about this since NDE’s seem to be fairly universal. This is possible but it may be that the person who is clinically dead for a period but comes back has a different experience altogether from the person who dies and stays that way. I am not much of a gambler; I want to give myself the best odds of finding my way when I pass so I have definitely worked on the death dream since the passing of that mentor. If I am wrong then I will be happy to go to the Light and be done with it.
My experience with people who have passed though makes me more and more certain that the death dream concept has some weight. I’ve had to help both of my parents, neither of whom was particularly spiritual, to find their way into the afterlife and I have been at more than one funeral where the dead person was confused about what to do, even if they realized they were dead (something that has to be figured out before the death dream can be invoked). I’ve also seen this phenomenon with people who have died in catastrophes; there are always people left behind who are dead, who know they are dead but who have no idea how to cross over. Magicians and shaman have ways of helping these folks but it would be far easier on them if they had had a death dream.
So, the next time you read about a house haunted by this or that spirit, ask yourself: is that ghost there because it is attached to a person or place, or has some unfinished business or is the spirit simply there because it has no idea where to go?