We see a proliferation of people who claim to act as intermediaries through a process of seance, or use of a Ouija board or planchette, to communicate with individuals who have passed away. The interest in this area goes through periods of peaks and troughs, but continually captures the popular imagination, particularly for people who are unwilling or unable to ‘let go’ of their deceased loved ones, or who have specific unfinished business for which they are seeking answers. Shakespeare recounted numerous stories of visitations by ghosts who interacted with the living, usually to provoke some direct action of retribution upon some party who had done them wrong, such as the ghost of Hamlet’s father, or Caesar’s ghost appearing to Brutus, or the ghosts of those he had killed to achieve the crown in Richard III. Such stories abound.

The ancient Greeks and Romans had many tales of the existence of the being after death, the descent into the underworld, the different regions and they definitely believed that the being and personality that existed in the bodily form persisted after death, and under certain circumstances, contact between the embodied realm and the after-death realms was possible.

If we view the process of the dissolution of the tie between the physical body, the vital being, the mental formation of the being and the psychic being, or soul, and the stages that take place after death, we find that it is possible that once the physical body has begun to dissolve at the time of death, the other elements of the being may continue to hold their form for some period of time, until eventually the vital elements dissolve, the mental formations dissolve and only the soul, or psychic being, continues on its way to take a new birth.

The Tibetans were focused on helping the being disentangle from the bodily life and move on into its next incarnations. Westerners have been more focused on how to maintain and hold onto the disembodied being and interacting with it in some form. The famous escape artist Harry Houdini spent much of his time in the 1920’s debunking much of what went on at that time as psychic connection to those departed from this world. He showed that much of the activity, the seances and contacts, was simply taking advantage of the gullibility of those who wanted to believe, but had no real knowledge of the actual process or even the reality of such contacts.

A disciple asks: “What kind of forces can be called up by using the planchette, and how is it done?”

The Mother writes: “Oh! Oh!… Do you mean automatic writing?” [yes] “That depends on the people who do it. Sometimes there are no forces at all! It is the mental and vital vibrations of the people who use the planchette, and it is their own subconscious ideas which they bring up, ninety-eight times out of a hundred. [Later Mother added the following remark: “I say ninety times out of a hundred, for there are exceptions — I know of some — but they are so rare that it is better not to speak about them.”] If they are in contact with invisible entities, it may be all sorts of things but nothing very advisable!”

“Almost with certainty it could be said that it is not what people think it is, in the sense that most often they try to evoke what they call the ‘spirit’ of a dead person, a relative or a friend or someone they loved and with whom they wish to remain in touch; and besides, they ask them the most foolish questions. Fortunately they don’t succeed in disturbing them….”

“From this point of view one can say that if you had a relation of deep and sincere love with someone who has passed away, left his body, and if you are calm and strong enough yourself, this person may choose to take shelter vitally in your atmosphere — the atmosphere of the one he loves — for a more or less long period. In this case it means that the relation was very close, very intimate, and if you are not altogether materialistic to the point of not having any direct mental perception, you can remain in mental contact with this person, in communication with him. It is a rather exceptional case, for usually if your atmosphere is calm and strong enough to be able to truly serve as a protection, the person who has left his body enters into a deep rest there, and it is not at all good to disturb it; and the best thing you can do is to enfold this person with your love and leave him in peace.”

“Therefore, even if it were possible to enter into communication with him by this means, which I would call very crude, it would be improper to do so. But usually, people who have the capacity, the faculties required to serve as a shelter for some time, a transitional shelter for those who have gone, do not have this ridiculous idea of disturbing the rest of the one they love by tapping on a planchette… fortunately!”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 5 Occult Forces, pp. 127-129

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast located at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky
He is author of 20 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.
Video presentations, interviews and podcast episodes are all available on the YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/@santoshkrinsky871
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at www.aurobindo.net
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at Lotus Press www.lotuspress.com