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Journal for Spirituality and Transcendental Psychology 3 (1), 2013

Encounters with Immaterial Beings

A Literature Study as an Example of Psychological-Critical Hermeneutics of Spiritual Experiences Edgar W. Harnack

Initial uestion
s it possi!le that there are non"!iological life for#s, life outside the di#ension of our current scientific $orld order% The e&istence of such intelligent life is often affir#ati'ely (i(e(, in the sense of an assertion) denied !y representati'es of a #aterialistic $orld'ie$( )ut this denial is of co#pletely irrational nature( *ea" sona!le $ould !e at !est an agnostic #odesty+ ,ou cannot tal- a!out that $hich you do not -no$( Science can logically ne'er proof the non"e&istence of a phe" no#enon !ased on e#pirical -no$ledge, !ut only according to theoretical con" siderations stating that the e&istence of a pheno#enon is .ust i#possi!le( )ut such a categorical e&clusion is not possi!le in the case of not #aterial"!ound life( /here such e&clusion is asserted, it is !ased on a religious !elief in the 'ery e&is" 1 tence of the #aterial (a #aterial #onis#)( n 1011 2lan 3ardec, the founder of the *o#an !ranch of spiritualis#, con" tradicted the assertion that the e&istence of !eings $ithout #aterial !ody $as inco#pati!le $ith the la$s of nature+ 45o $e -no$ these la$s so $ell that it is possi!le to define the li#its of 6od%4 he $rites, and in relation to the critics of the authenticity of #ediu#istic e&perience+ 4 /e $ill pro'e the#, !y realities and co##on sense reasons, !ut if they do neither accept the one nor the other, if they e'en still deny $hat they see, it is up to the# to pro'e that our .udg#ent 77777
The #aterialist here!y acco#plishes a perfect solidarity $ith so#e dog#atic 8hristians, not only !ecause these also refuse any 9!elief in ghost:, !ut !ecause for the# it is as $ell true, 98redo ;uia a!surdu#: < .ust !ecause there are no rational argu#ents for #y !elief syste#, ha'e to !elief e'en #ore 'ehe#ently, or else loose the $ay to sal'ation, i(e(, loose a coherent i#age of #e and the $orld, in $hich #ay see #yself (in the #aterialist case) as the truly 9=nlightened: and rational disciple of the true $orld order(


Encounters with immaterial beings

is $rong, and the spiritualistic facts are i#possi!le(4 Since it is principally possible that non"#aterial !eings e&ist, that they are percei'ed !y #aterial !eings (hu#ans and ani#als) in so#e cases and that they in turn percei'e #aterial !eings and $orlds, and since there are hints for their e&istence, 3ardec turns the onus of proof and de#ands fro# those, $hich negate their e&istence $ithout the slightest reason, to proof their ine&istence or to e&plain the e&perience of these !eings( /e are not interested, therefore, in proofing their e&istence, it is our concern $hat the e&perience of o!'iously authentic people tells us a!out their nature (the underlying 9la$s of nature:)( n a re'ie$ of the literature on encounters $ith i##aterial !eings, $e find different -inds of psychological e&perience+ 1( The perception of dead persons: The i##ediate perception of the dead is #ostly a 'isual perception of hu#an !eings $ho are li-ely or certainly dead at that ti#e( 2( The immediate perception of non-human beings: )eings that appear to !e non"hu#an and that are percei'ed i##ediately 'isually and ? or audi!ly, tac" tilely etc( @ere $e can again distinguish different classes of !eings (especially deities, angels or de#ons, nature spirits) 3( The perception of the effect of immaterial beings: The perception of the i##ediate i#pact of, in the positi'e case, !ene'olent !eings (6uardian 2ngel =&perience) or direct harass#ent !y a negati'e"#inded !eing (perception of de#onic influenceA 9circu#sessio:)( 2nother su!category concerns poltergeists+ 2 poltergeist pheno#enon #eans the occurrence of $eird physical incidences (changing the arrange#ent of o!.ects, possi!ly teleportation or influencing elec" trical de'ices, etc()( @o$e'er, here also no !eing e&ecuting these pheno#ena can !e directly o!ser'ed !ut such a !eing (such as a dead spirit) is supposed to !e the cause( 4( Possession: The percei'ed effect of another !eing inside of a person (co#" plete ta-eo'er of consciousness or partial effect on the #ental functioning of a personA also te#poral #ediu#istic possession) is, the 4other4 !eing percei'ed as i##ediate, an inter#ediate category !et$een sensory perception and the #ere perception of effect( >( The perception of people currently living in immaterial form: This particular category concerns encounters during out of !ody e&periences either of the e&" periencer or the percei'ed one (e(g(, 'isions in $hich #editation students #eet their #editation #aster)( This category is not co'ered here(

3ardec, 2llan (190B)+ 5as )uch der Cedien, Drei!urg i( )r(+ )auer, 19 (Eriginal+ Fe Fi're des CGdi" u#s, 1011)( 2ll citations in this essay are translated fro# the 6er#an !y the author(


Edgar W. Harnack

n all of these categories $e do not distinguish $hether the e&perience is #ade as an inner or an outer perception, i(e(, $hich -ind of reality does the e&" perience contain for the su!.ect(

n #y article on Transcendental Se#iotics (Part ) in this issue, ha'e sho$n that a her#eneutic #ethod is appropriate for the generation of -no$ledge a!out pheno#ena, $hich do not confor# to the pre'ailing #aterialist $orld'ie$( The her#eneutic #ethod approaches a te&t $ith ;uestions generating preli#inary ans$ers, $hich in turn allo$ in a ne&t step a !etter understanding of the te&t and other si#ilar te&ts( /ith such a her#eneutic approach ha'e loo-ed through so#e pu!lished $or-s that are connected !y t$o criteria+ Dirst, all pu!" lications should ha'e a co##on su!.ect, in this case the e&perience of i##ate" rial !eings( Second, the selection included e&clusi'ely $or-s that contained first" hand reports( n addition, other criteria $ere applied+ *ecent pu!lications ha'e !een preferred, and only print pu!lications in 6er#an language, listed at the 6er#an Hational Fi!rary $ere included( 2#ong the re#aining nu#erous !oo-s 3 an ar!itrary selection has !een #ade( 2s a guideline, the follo$ing ;uestions $ere applied+ ! "riteria of person: s it possi!le to -no$ so#ething a!out the person $ho has the e&perience, espe" cially $ith regard to their psychosocial functioning le'el as an indication of so" cially accepted cogniti'e functions% This ;uestion should pri#arily help to un" derstand the credi!ility of the person( ! "riteria of situation: s there any e'idence that the sa#e situation or si#ilar situations ha'e !een e&perienced in this $ay !y other people% This ;uestion concerns the under" standing of a e&perience, regardless of an indi'idual person( ! "riteria of te#t $ statement: 8an the conte&t, $hich is included in the state#ent itself, influence the degree of reality of the state#ent% 8an testi#onial psychology pro'ide e'idence for fictional content% 8an clinical psychology pro'ide e'idence of for#al thought 77777

Ene could call this a rando#iIation(


Encounters with immaterial beings

disorder% This ;uestions ai#s at an indication of the credi!ility of the report itself( %! "onclusions on the construct level: 8an conclusions a!out the construct le'el !e deri'ed fro# co#parison of the thus as authentic identified anecdotal reports, $hich in turn are useful for as" sessing the indi'idual reports% 8an structuring principles (categories) !e gener" ated% n order not to !ore the reader and the author $ith an infinitely detailed analysis of e'ery case, the #ethod $ill not !e presented syste#atically at this point, !ut only sho$ so#e of its results in a spotlight"li-e #anner( The purpose of this pu!lication, therefore, is not a #ethodically e&act study, !ut an e&e#plary dis" cussion of so#e literature !y including a her#eneutic perspecti'e(

"# $irect perception of deceased

There are a nu#!er of conte#porary !oo-s $ith i##ediate descriptions of spirit perceptions( 2#ong these, (in order to opti#iIe the person"criterion, nu#!er 1 of the a!o'e syste#) e&cluded all reporters that see#ed to ha'e an increased interest in pu!lic attention or ga'e for other reasons rise to dou!ts a!out their 4 authenticity fro# the outset( Dinally, selected the S$iss forester Sa# @ess, $ho in his !oo- &iesseits ' (enseits introduces hi#self and $hose career and > e&perience is portrayed in Wanderer in zwei Welten of Pier @Jnni as an e&" tract of con'ersations $ith @ess( )am Hess had *at the age of seven+ his first encounter with a spirit. ,t that time+ it was his dear grandfather smiling. He saw him sitting beside the coffin. n the following years+ several other encounters e#pected him+ making him shiver at the beginning. The empathetic understanding of his mother+ father and uncles and the spiritual lessons by a priest of the local monastery helped him to live with his e#ceptional disposition* . The development of this special gift ' the attempts to block it out+ to conceal it+ and finally the inner necessity to integrate it+ to live for it ' seem convincing as a psychological process of development and are consistent 77777

='en if this criterion see#s 'ery su!.ecti'ely, it can !e #easured easily !e the nu#!er of personal pu!lications a!out oneself, pu!lic appearance, and co##ercial significance of the #ediu#istic $or-( > @Jnni, Pier (2010!: Wanderer in .wei Welten. )am Hess ' /egegnungen mit Totengeistern und der anderen &imension des 0ebens( 2arau+ 2T and Sa# @ess (200B)+ &iesseits - (enseits: Ein /lick 1ber die )chwelle des Todes. @utt$il+ )rKhl 1 @Jnni (2010), S( 3B?30


Edgar W. Harnack

with e#periences of other people who make e#traordinary e#periences. His formation as a foresters and his professional and personal career indicate at least that Hess should be a down-to-earth person. The person-criterion of authenticity is supported by the vivid picture of the personality that is presented in the report of H3nni. The encounters with spirits of the dead reported by Hess are revealing: They often accord with what centuries of tradition reports about the laws that seem to govern those of the dead+ who are caught in an *intermediate world*: )am Hess tells us of many e#periences+ that for violently deceased 4like those dying on the battlefield+ by murder+ and suicide! it is harder to move on into the ne#t world than 5 for those deceased in peace. /y impressive e#amples+ we learn that spiritual beings cling to places and ob6ects that were important to them once in their lifetime. That is why relatives who want to hold their dead long after their death+ make it difficult for them to go. )pirits of the dead are not fundamentally resentful towards the living: *)pirit beings are human beings+ even if they have no body. ,ccordingly+ 7 there are among them all the behaviours or characteristics as among the living*. )o Hess $ H3nni tell us of spirits who are not able to overcome their wickedness+ and those who continue to act helpfully after death. Even ghost communities 4think of the Wild Hunt or the legend of ghost ships! can be e#perienced by )am Hess+ but the individuals seem solipsistic and isolated like the shadows 8dysseus saw in Hades. The e&perience of @ess sho$s a high correlation, for e&a#ple, $ith reports of so#e indigenous cultures( The ancestors are re'ered as po$erful helpers of the co##unity, pro'ided they ha'e ta-en the right $ay to the other$orld( Those $ho died !y sudden deaths, accidents and 'iolent cri#e !ut also suicides, are, ho$e'er, feared+ The unthin-a!le that has torn the# out of life $ithout finishing their earthly !usiness #a-es such spirit !eings adhere particularly strongly to the $orld of the li'ing and then can cause da#age( Sa# @ess e&perienced that e'en the distur!ance of the peace of the gra'e or the fact that a !ody has not !een !uried lets the dead not co#e to rest( Si#ilarly, $e hear in #any cultures and already in the stories of ancient 6reece of the spe" 77777
8f( @arnac-, =dgar /( (2012)+ The cost of !eing different+ SchiIotypy, hyper"per#ea!le =go struc" ture, and social reactions on spiritual e&perience( ()TP 9 4:!+ ::7-:;< 0 Ef course, $e do not -no$ anything a!out the effecti'e direction of this ne&us+ if Sa# @ess con" strues his e&perience < #ay!e unconsciously < follo$ing a cultural pattern or if they as autono#ous e'ents confir# the#)( Ence again+ @ere $e deal $ith plausi!ility as a result of pre'ious her#eneutic e&a#ination, not $ith a secure proof( 9 p( 121


Encounters with immaterial beings

cial i#portance of the right, ritual !urial( So 2ntigone puts herself into great danger, only to !ury her !rother Polyneices, $ho $as conde#ned as a traitor !y the The!an despot to suffer not only earthly !ut eternal punish#ent( The recur" rent patterns in the i##ediate e&periences $ith spirits of the dead co#prise all 10 hu#an epochs and cultural areas( s the need to !ury the dead, $hich at least goes !ac- to the phylogenetic roots of hu#anity B0,000 years ago, not .ust su" perstition arising out of nai'ety, !ut a real e&perience $ith the dead, $hich < 'isi!le for so#e < stay a#ong the li'ing, as long as they cannot find closure $ith their pre'ious life% The direct e&periences of Sa# @ess lea'e us $ith the hy" pothesis, 4that this is not si#ply pulled out of thin air !ut !ased on the e&peri" ences and insights that ha'e #ade highly spiritually e'ol'ed people for thou" 11 sands of years and still do4( t is interesting, in this conte&t, to co#pare this $ith a classic e&ploration of paranor#al e&perience, the study Geistererscheinungen und Vorzeichen !y 8( "' 6( JungLs student Aniela %aff&( "ategories that are familiar from popular ghost stories become chapter headings in (aff=>s book+ under which first-hand reports from people can be found who
Their authenticity can perhaps !e seen !y their ineradica!ility+ Hot only the 8hristian #issionaries in =urope, also the )uddhist clergy in 2sia could not pre'ent that spirits of the dead are still encoun" tered today( n fact, popular 'ie$s on spiritual !eings often e&ist alongside $ith official )uddhist teachings that do not share these 'ie$s li-e$iseA cf( Ta#!iah, S( J( (19B0)+ /uddhism and the spirit cults in ?orth-East Thailand. 8a#!ridge+ Mni'ersity Press( The sur'i'al of hu#ans as spirits is theo" retically difficult to .ustify for )uddhis#, if re#aining in the inter#ediate $orld is interpreted as getting out of the cycle of re!irths and as affir#ation of the e&istence of a su!stantial soul (and not .ust as a 4delay4 in continuing)( Thus, a#ong the si& di'ision of life $orlds in Cahayana )uddhis#, there are the preta (hungry ghosts), !ut not earth!ound spirits of the dead( This theoretical difficulty see#s not easy to #eet as the )uddhist teacher Fa#a Tse# Tul-u *inpoche, recogniIed !y the 5alai Fa#a, de#onstrates( Tse# Tul-u, $ho de'otes hi#self $ith plenty of ti#e to his $e!site $here he tal-s a!out the su!.ect of ghosts e&tensi'ely, did not -no$ any ans$er to #y pu!lic ;uestion in his !log ho$ the post"e&istence of the dead as spirits fits into )uddhist doctrines( nstead, he referred only to another !log entry in $hich he had also not !een a!le to ans$er the ;uestion( 2 reasona!le ans$er can !e found, ho$e'er, in sa!ella 3rause (2012)+ )chamanen+ He#en+ /arden und 8rakel: Ph3nomene der /esessenheit durch &3monen und @ottheiten in Tibet und 0adakh, Ml#+ Da!ri"Nerlag, p >1+ 4 n the )uddhist 'ie$, the strea# of consciousness lea'ing the dying is deter" #ined !y the thoughts of the person at death( s this person full of fear, hatred, or panic and cling to life, then this negati'e e#otional energy can solidify through a pro.ection into a spirit( 8ertain for#s of death, such as suicide or #urder, al#ost ine'ita!ly !ring forth a spirit, !ecause they are associated $ith 'ery strong negati'e e#otions4( @ere $e find an e&planation co#pati!le $ith )uddhist concep" tions and #atching $ith the shado$iness of the spirit+ Such spirit !eings are pro6ections of a #ental continuu# that has partly !eco#e entangled in the #aterial $orld( 11 p( 31
12 10


JaffG, 2niela (199B)+ @eistererscheinungen und %or.eichen( Drei!urg+ @erder (Erig( 19>0, OPrich+ *ascherA engl( &eath+ dreams and ghosts( =insiedeln+ 5ai#on, 1999)(


Edgar W. Harnack

sent their e#perience to the author answering an advertisement: The white woman+ for e#ample+ a ghost wrapped completely in white light or white clothing+ is still seen in our time. , woman writes: *)uddenly see before me a medium si.ed snowwhite figure of a female. )he hovered in front of me+ then+ ne#t to me+ again a little 9A further away and closer again hovering slightly above ground* . ,nd another says: *... there appeared on the threshold ... a to me completely strange female figure+ 9; tall+ beautiful+ in white flowing robes+ with long black hair hanging down* . Even the well-known from numerous parodies *ghost without a head and face* owes its humorous e#istence to a long tradition of e#periencing+ as show the collected reports here: , woman tells how she mustered all her courage to address somebody in a long hooded cloak walking in front of her on a lonely+ dark road. *He turned round Buickly+ we stood facing each other. was almost paraly.ed to ice with 9E fright: only the empty hood ' a black voidC Drom a face saw no trace.* . nteresting is the #ethodological approach of this Jungian research+ /ithout !roaching the ontological status (the 4reality4) of the reported, the pheno#enon is ta-en seriously as an e&pression of the pure possi!ility of such a (archetypal) perception( Jaffe lea'es the su!.ecti'e authentic content of the reports, !ut in" terprets the# $idely !y JungQs #ethod of a#plification, i(e(, she puts the# in a general #ythological conte&ts( There!y, ho$e'er, the pri#acy of e&perience is lost so#eti#es( So she e&plains the $hite $o#an #ythologically as Nenus" 2phrodite, as Cother =arth and as-s herself, 4/hy has the Cother =arth, !eing also the goddess of lo'e R(((S, con'erted into so#ething sinister4( That puts the #yth, the archetype into the position of a po$erful agent and #a-es the e&peri" ence depending on a collecti'e cultural #e#ory( n a difference to JungLs theory, for #e the e&periences can stand on their o$n pri#arily+ @ere a person #a-es an e&perience < and this, first of all, has to !e understood in itself and for itself( )ut $hy should the $riters of such reports post real e&periences and not .ust ha'e #ade all up% Jung replies to this o!.ection in the preface $ritten !y hi#, 4((( there are such reports fro# all ti#es and places( Therefore, there is no sufficient reason to dou!t the 'eracity of a single report principally( 2 reasona!le dou!t is only appropriate $here there is a deli!erate lie( The nu#!er of such cases is 11 negligi!le, !ecause the authors of such forgery are too ignorant to lie properly(4 77777
Ep( cit(, p( 11> Ep( cit(, p( 111 Ep( cit(, p( 1B9 Ep( cit(, p( 13


14 1> 11


Encounters with immaterial beings

'# Immediate perception of non-human (eings

4,! ,ngels Spirit !eings of non"hu#an origin #anifest the#sel'es !y di'erse for#s of influ" ence and encounters on all sensory channels and in all gradations of reality( This is particularly e'ident in the reports on light figures originating fro# #any cul" tures that $e call angels( 2ngel encounters occur (li-e all such pheno#ena) #ore often than is nor#ally assu#ed regarding the conceal#ent $ith $hich 1B these e&periences are ta!ooed( Stories of people reporting to ha'e e&perienced 10 an angelic apparition $ere collected !y )lennyce Ec*ersley( Here we learn about (ohn+ who was deterred from a suicidal leap by the huge wings of a loving spirit being. We read about Foy who+ being hit by a truck and 6ammed under it+ was given courage by a female voice+ and survived the severe accident with minor in6uries. We learn about "aroline+ who gets an answer to her prayer in a dark undercrossing in which she has to pass some drunkards: )uddenly a woman appears and likewise suddenly vanishes after having accompanied her passing the frightening figures with safe steps. ,lthough the pure number of direct e#periences impresses the reader+ in this opus the shaky ground of speculation seems broader than the narrow path of convincing facts. This is first of all because of a weakness of what we called the te#tcriterion: ,lthough the author pretends to have received all reported events firsthand+ most of the episodes she tells herself. Even where she supposedly allows the reporters to speak directly to the reader+ these Buotes sound *doctored* and at least transposed into the language of the author. Everyone who+ like the author of this survey+ collects self-reports of unusual events knows that each report is written in a completely different style and the consistency of an easily readable book would suffer greatly. Here+ however+ the readability of the book seems to override the authenticity. )ince other details to verify the authenticity of the reports are missing+ probably even the possibility of free invention is not to be dismissed. ,gainst this stand only the enormous variety and differing Buality of the reports that may have been very difficult to conceive even with a lot of imagination. ,t least they do not contradict the various e#periences of angels that can be found 77777
n the online opinion poll $e!page soIioland(de (source+ Cystery T =soteri- M#frage 200>?2001, soIioland(de, @uhnsgasse 34!, >01B1 3Kln) al#ost one third of the in;uired sa#ple ans$ered that they either $ith certainty (U10V) or possi!ly (U20V) ha'e !een in contact $ith a ghost or any other supernatural apparition( 10 6lennyce =c-ersley (2003)+ )chut.engel. @eschichten von ?ahtodeserfahrungen und /egegnungen mit Engeln( CPnchen+ 6old#ann( Erig( (1991)+ ,n ,ngel at my shoulder( Fondon+ *ider and (2002)+ )aved by the ,ngels( Fondon+ *ider(


Edgar W. Harnack

in other case collections 4such as the ,lister Hardy ,rchives! in their narrative structure. /ut then remains another speculative side of the book+ namely that the reports seem to give testimony only partially about angels+ being included either because the compiler or the reporters saw them as an angelic encounter+ without that this conclusion is always convincing intersub6ectively. Was the pregnant "arol+ immersed by an intense light in a feeling of peace and bliss+ rewarded by an angel appearance or a different mystical e#perienceG What was it that helped the 9;-year-old Hichael+ his bicycle being directed by an invisible force on a pitch-dark road without his own doing around a dangerous abyssG "an the voice be attributed to an angel that preserved &avid twice in his life from severe physical damageG 8nly if we denote as angels 4from the @reek angelos+ the messenger! all the messages sent from a supernatural source+ which protect and encourage a human being. /ut then we are dealing with conclusions and not with perceptions+ why we must classify some of the events of this volume at other parts of our system. 4/! ?ature spirits So#e people do not percei'e spirits of the dead or angels, !ut (also or e&clu" si'ely) entities $hich appear in nature or in connection $ith natural pheno#" ena( Such natural or ele#ental spirits in prehistoric ti#es and until today ha'e !een a part of #yths and legends in our culture as $ell as in the ani#istic relig" ions of #any indigenous peoples and in the her#etic, occult sciences of the 19 /est (#agic, alche#y)( 2s 2niela JaffG points out in another conte&t, their !elonging to the real# of #yths is not opposed to the authenticity of the e&peri" ence, !ecause !efore the #yth solidified into its typical crystalline narrati'e for#, a nu#!er of real e&periences ha'e !een underlying it( )oth in the letters that e'aluated JaffG, as $ell as in other archi'es of spiritual e&periences reports ha'e !een found a!out encounters $ith nature spirits, and also the S$iss for" ester Sa# @ess percei'es the#( @o$e'er, the te&t sources in this area are less a!undant than in the field of the spirits of the dead( 2 co#pilation of pri#ary sources can !e found in !ar+orie %ohnson,s !oo- a!out nature spirits, for $hich the author for >0 years collected hundreds of reports fro# around the 20 $orld( 77777
JaffG, op( cit(, p( 129


Johnson, Car.orie (2000)+ ?aturgeister. Wahre Erlebnisse mit Elfen und Iwergen( 6rafing+ 2;ua#a" rin (1( 2ufl( 2000)( 2#aIingly, until no$, the !oo- $as pu!lished in a 6er#an and an talian transla" tion onlyA the pu!lication of the =nglish original is .ust in preparation( 2 large part of these reports



Encounters with immaterial beings

(ohnson seems to disclose the names and addresses of the rapporteurs without anonymi.ation+ which is a big e#ception in such literature+ even if+ to my knowledge+ nobody has attempted to verify the e#istence of the sources. The reports of small brightly glowing elves+ earth-coloured dwarves and gnomes+ water+ tree and fire spirits+ and many other manifestations are actually /ay Jirkaldy from 0ondon reports 4p. EA! once having watched a collection of very small flying creatures together with other people in )t. (ames Park. The male seemed to wear tight-fitting pants+ red+ blue+ or green doublets and a kind of fishermanKs cap. The women were dressed in bright robes. Hrs. @. J. Evason from Jent writes that she had seen a gnome pushing a tiny wheelbarrow before him: *He took care of the front yard+ which the tenant above me maintains*+ she writes 4p. 2<!. ,nd &oris Jing from ?ottingham remembers to have found at the age of eight under the dining table in the morning a forty centimetre large @oblin with blue tunic+ pointed cap and pointed shoes as well as two more figures half as big+ and that she ran away fearfully. This collection of stories a#aIes !ecause the e&periences depicted here see# so natural as a Sunday e&cursion $ith the fa#ily( )ut the little d$ar'es $ith their $ests, the $ater ny#phs $ith frog or fish !ody, the el'es that loo- li-e $isps or $inged tiny fe#ale figures $ith clothes in !right colours see# to ha'e sprung fro# the picture !oo- so #uch that one $onders $hether here the hu#an !rain $ith its tendency to construct perceptions according to fa#iliar sche#as has not translated non"sensual i#pressions into sensual appearances( The cases, ho$" e'er, according to te&t analytic criteria see# to !e reproduced directly and unal" tered, straight fro# the spring of their 'ery different authors, $hich on the one hand is the !ig gain of this !oo-, $hich on the other hand #a-es the reading a little !ul-y after a certain ti#e( /hat for #ost #oderns i#possi!ly can !e so#ething else than silly chil" drenQs stories or the ani#istic e&planation of pri#iti'e peoples for scientific facts, others clai# to e&perience as a reality+ the e&istence of spiritual !eings that are connected to the physical nature, !ut ne'ertheless ha'e their o$n e&istence( The occult tradition has $or-ed $ith ele#ental spirits since its !eginning( th th 2round the turn of 19 to 20 century cele!rities of Theosophy li-e 2nnie )e" sant and 8harles Fead!eater, and later *udolf Steiner, clai#ed that they i##e" diately percei'ed nature spirits( ='en 2rthur 8onan 5oyle, a #e#!er of the So" ciety for Psychical *esearch, tried to relie'e the e&istence of el'es, gno#es and other !eings li'ing in nature fro# the real# of fairy tales and #yths and dili"

co#es fro# the 19>0s, $hen Johnson $as a secretary of the for#er )ritish Dairy nvestigating )ociety and in'ited su!#issions of e&periental reports !y ne$spaper ads(


Edgar W. Harnack

gently collected e'idence of sightings and their effects( The reports, $hich Johnson collected, #ay see# incredi!le, !ut also incredi!ly authentic and genu" ine and deser'e to !e ta-en seriously as reports of unusual e&periences(


-# Experiences of the effect of non-human (eings

The perception of influence 4fro# a!o'e4, $hich is interpreted as the effect of a guardian angel, is a relati'ely co##on pheno#enon of spiritual e&perience( /e ha'e already touched on such reports in the discussion of the i##ediate percep" tion of angels (in the !oo- of 6lennyce =c-ersley)( So#e occult authors thinthat such effects actually do not deri'e fro# a different 4species4 (angels), !ut fro# $ell"#eaning persons $ho died, $hich sho$s ho$ difficult it is to attri!ute these reports to a specific source( The opposite pheno#enon is fortunately rare+ Pu!lished reports that tell fro# the first hand perspecti'e a!out harass#ent !y de#ons (8ircu#sessio) in 6er#an language do currently not -no$(

.# Possession
)efore $e turn to t$o reports a!out possession !y spirits of the dead, $e can gain an o'er'ie$ of the di'ersity of the pheno#enon of possession !y a short trip to the anthropological literature( Isa(ella /rauseQs !oo- a!out the phenomena of possession (y demons '' and deities in 0i(et and Lada*h gathers research of the anthropology of religion in the Ti!etan"Fada-hi culture syste#atically( t is thus ;uite suita!le for the e&e#plary study of possession in traditional cultures( n su##ary, the author e&tracted the follo$ing classes of possessions+ 9. The following possession phenomena are considered as positive and desirable from the outset: Honastery oracles designated by lot or by inheritanceL The possessed bard typeL


The pu!licist Peter To#p-ins has gathered such possi!le e'idence and reports a!out spectacular encounters of psychic persons $ith nature spirits+ To#p-ins, Peter (199B)+ The secret life of nature( He$ ,or-+ @arpercollins( There, he also responds to the assertion that the #ost fa#ous case in'esti" gated !y 8onan 5oyle had !een proofed as a fa-e( 22 8f( annotation 10


Encounters with immaterial beings

:. A.

ntentionally caused demonic possession of a corpse 4the tantric ro-langstype!L The following possession phenomena are considered as negative and undesirable: &emonic possession in peopleL &emonic possession of dead bodies 4the demonic ro-langs-type!L Possession with witchcraft and possession by beings who are created by witches through their negative emotionsL The following possession phenomena are considered initially negative because interpreted as a disease+ but later positive because interpreted as divine possession: Honastery oracles elected by divine appointmentL :A The village oracles

t is stri-ing that, in addition to spirits of the dead and de#ons, li'ing people ($o#en characteriIed as $itches) can penetrate the !ody of another person and cause da#age $ith a part of their unconscious( n any case, the negati'e posses" sion of li'ing persons pro'o-es #ental and possi!ly physical illness, and #is!e" ha'iour( En the other hand, also higher !eings can #anifest in a hu#an !ody, $hich initially #ay trigger sy#pto#s, too, !ut then is al$ays rated 'ery posi" ti'ely+ in the case of the Ti!etan hu#an oracles the positi'e o!sessi'e !eings are usually called 4protectors of the doctrine4 (Sans-rit &harmapalaA Ti!etan "hoskyong spo-en+ "ho-kyong), $hich are gods of the lo$er regions (the sa#saric real#s)( )uddhas and )odhisatt'as, on the other hand, $ho are already !eyond the ordinary real#s, ne'er #anifest the#sel'es in the !odies of the li'ing or the e#pty shells of the dead( Therefore, the Ti!etan la#as consider the clai# to !e 24 possessed !y a )uddha as proof of the (deli!erate or self"deluded) fraudster( The possession e&periences fro# our culture $ith $hich $e shall deal as an e&a#ple are related solely to the nature of possession !y deceased( These can result < in a not rarely seen pattern, according to so#e reports < fro# contacts to

Ep( cit(, p( 11Bf

t is of interest if this distinction is reflected in different e#pirical conse;uences of !oth posses" sions or .ust originates fro# the theoretical assu#ption that )uddhas do not !eha'e li-e this( The categories see# here to !e deli#ited in a different $ay than in the /estern discourse any$ay, $here < !ecause of the )i!lical tradition < a su!stantialist perspecti'e categoriIes de#ons and hu#ans into strictly separated real#s, $hile in Ti!etan )uddhis# there is (!ridgea!le) gap !et$een usual !eings (hu#ans or de#ons) and )uddhas( So in the Ti!etan sources the #eta#orphosis of hu#ans into de#ons is considered as possi!le(



Edgar W. Harnack

spirits pro'o-ed in seances( Cany 'isionaries $arn strongly against the dangers of nai'e contact to other $orlds( 2lan 3ardec already has $ritten, 4The practical e&ercise of spiritualis# is associated $ith #any difficulties and not al$ays free 2> fro# incon'eniences and dangers4( This $arning is supported !y the 1909 pu!" lished auto!iographical report Medialitt, Besessenheit, Wahnsinn !y Carola '1 Cutomo+ This report deserves mention because it can vividly show the course of a mental situation that has been called mediumistic psychosis. Personal predisposition of "utomo encounters dangerous practices and a continuous cumulation: )he describes+ firstly+ that her grandmother had already stood out in the family by having *second sight*+ that she foresaw the death of people. )econdly+ "arola "utomo made herself e#periences with spontaneous memories of reincarnation and inspirations that she traced back to her then deceased grandmother. &uring a spontaneous waking trance+ she has the impression that the spirit of her idol Elvis Presley manifested in her hotel room. Mntil then+ such e#periences were singular+ not yet intensified to thought disorder+ ego impairment and other pathological :2 forms of e#perience+ such as after the s=ances. /ut as soon as she actively e#periments with spiritualist s=ances+ the predisposition develops into an uncontrollable opening to foreign influences. Her first e#periment with a s=ance leaves everyone involved with perple#ity and astonishment: Where do the stunning details come from that reveal themselves through the automatic writing with a *Westerwald Table*G ,s her first big mistake she later regards that she asks the spirits in another s=ance to show her the spirit world. )he becomes cold and she feels bodiless all of a sudden+ watching the aura of people sitting around like on a trip with hallucinogenic substances. Drom here on+ the s=ances+ so she assumes+ become more than 6ust an encounter with beings from another dimensions: t begins what she describes in detail on the following 9A< pages as possession by different spirits. &eeper and deeper she gets involved in not only receiving messages at s=ances+ but also contacting spiritual beings at any time+ day or night+ through the techniBue of automatic writing. Dinally+ she hears the voices of the spirits even in herself. They tell her to do absurd things 6ust to check their obedience+ they pretend to be omniscient and divine+ they threaten the rapporteur to torture her as punishment for disobedience and even to kill her family. ,ll these messages are known to 77777

3ardec, Ep( cit(, 0 8uto#o, 8arola (1909)+ Hedialit3t+ /esessenheit+ Wahnsinn. Dlens!urg+ Dlens!urger @efte :

21 2B

8f( @arnac-, =dgar /( (2012)+ The diagnostic separation of psychosis and spiritual e#perience &istinctive "riteria for "linical Practice( ()TP : 49!+ 2--7A


Encounters with immaterial beings

us from the voices of many patients diagnosed as psychotic. Here+ however+ they stand Buite in the logical course of development of an actively induced contact with spirit beings. The commotions of a healthy+ stable mind but went further: she soon sees ob6ects move by themselves+ then she hovers over her own body. ,lways the inner dependency of the rapporteur on these messages ama.esL that she cannot see through that these spirits are inflated liars and manipulators: obediently the now 4partially! possessed woman follows all the instructions+ partly out of faith and partly because of fear of the conseBuences. n the last part of the book+ she describes how she despite of 4not because of! an authoritarian psychiatric treatment and then with the help of a sympathetic psychologist gets away from her dependency of the spirits+ how she can stop the automatic writing and block the internal contact with the spirits. Dinally+ she is able to take leave of the last+ closest spirit+ her e#-boyfriend+ who had posthumously tormented and loved her in revenge for former re6ection. )he lets him go+ sends him away eventually after several relapses+ and from that moment on has no symptoms that would indicate any psychotic states in any way. 8uto#oLs assu#ption, her schiIophrenifor# sy#pto#s $ere due to the sG" ances and their conse;uences, see#s co#prehensi!le, gi'en the description of the onset and re#ission (ter#ination) of her sy#pto#s( /hile the person" criteria here naturally cannot spea- for a condition free of pathology, the state" #ent"criterion indicates authenticity and honesty( The situation is confir#a!le !y si#ilar reports, a generaliIation of the pheno#enon class of 4possession pro" 'o-ed !y spirit contacts4 appears per#issi!le( That this is indeed the influence of spirits (a su!stantialist theory of spirit possession), is not yet stated, li-e in the :5 classic !oo- The Unquiet Dead the author and psychotherapist Edith 2iore re.ects such a ontological assertion of a 4thing in itself4( 2lthough Diore says, se'enty percent of the patients in her psychotherapy practice o$ed their #ental disorders to the possession of spirits, she denies that she $as sure of the e&is" tence of such !eings( Enly the success of her #ethod, in $hich the possessing spirit is as-ed to lea'e during a hypnotic treat#ent, is sufficient for her to state the possi!ility of such e&istences( 2ccording to the la$s of hypnotherapy, the hypnotic suggestion, ho$e'er, needs not to correspond su!stantially $ith the actual cause of the psychological pro!le#s, yet to !e healing( 2lready the hyp" notic i#age as a sy#!ol of the #ental state can !e effecti'e( *egardless $hether thought of as real or as a sy#!olic act, !et$een the possession e&perience and the #ental state interactions in !oth directions e&ist+ $hether the possession percei'ed under hypnosis, as Diore thin-s, caused the psychological pro!le#s or,

=dith Diore (199>)+ The MnBuiet &ead: , Psychologist Treats )pirit Possession( He$ ,or-+ )allantine(


Edgar W. Harnack

con'ersely, the psychological situation attracts (or repels) suita!le possession e&periences( The latter !eco#es clear in reading the 2011 pu!lished report of the e&peri" ! ence of the couple Shaneta and 3oland Sitte, Heimgesucht und besetzt+ The book+ told e#clusively from the perspective of )haneta )itte 4although her husband also appears as an author!+ goes far beyond the agnosticism of Edith Diore and describes the story of a spirit possession affirmative: since at the end of the report a cure by freeing the adherent spirit is shown+ this proves to Hrs )itte+ that her family was a victim of various spirits for a long time. These spirits are a tailoress who was employed by Hrs )itte and who was possessed herself during her lifetime by her late husband having died before her+ and Hrs )itte>s mother-in-law. The selection of the persons later becoming spirit beings is striking because of the ambivalent relationship of the rapporteur to them. n a certain way very appropriate+ the harm both are doing is directed to her daughter+ which is occupied by the tailoress+ and to her husband possessed by his mother. ,ppropriate are these possessions inasmuch as the daughter at that time increasingly frees herself emotionally from her parents and presents herself Buite unruly. Hr. )itte in turn has become more and more irritated+ has begun to consume plenty of alcohol 4the tailoress and her husband were alcoholics+ but inconsistently not the mother-in-law that kept him possessed while he was drinking already!. n conseBuence of this possession+ Hrs )itte>s boutiBue runs not as good as before. Even the dog behaves strangely. The rapporteur paints a magnificent picture of the disaster of increasing decay of a once intact+ harmonious middle-class family. The eye of the trained psychotherapist is caught by the numerous potential pro6ections of the author>s inner conflicts to the spirit world. ,re we not dealing with a typical family in a transition crisis after reaching the retirement age+ and an empty nest syndromeG The adult childrenKs cutting of the cord and the entry into the autumn of life regularly let couples in a crisis bang into each other. )ubstance abuse is not uncommon in these phases. The husband seems not to know how to occupy himself after retirement+ the daughter emancipates and Hrs )itte herself is in conflict as to whether she gives up the house in @ermany and will move into her /ulgarian homeland. Here+ the perception of a possession of her husband and daughter become the appropriate means to e#plain this threatening crisis and channel it to an e#ternal source+ in order to maintain the idea of an ideal family 4very often one reads that she 6ust wants *to bring the family together again*!. This becomes very clear when she interprets all sings of autonomy of her daughter as 77777

Sitte, Shaneta und *oland (2011)+ Heimgesucht und beset.t( @alle+ Pro.e-te"Nerl( 8ornelius


Encounters with immaterial beings

influenced by the spirit of the tailoress: *Her behaviour was much more confident A< than usual* she notes with concern. ,nd when the daughter is happy to stand on her own feet economically+ this further supports their possession: * wanted to please her and bought her many things she had chosen. Earlier she used to say Buite kind: NThanks+ Hom>. ?ow she reply caustically+ KOou need not to buy me A9 anything+ have money myself.K * . When she tries to convince daughter and husband of the possession of the daughter+ she is falling on deaf ears. n response+ mother )itte feels isolated+ senses solidarity of daughter and husband against her+ and interprets this as incestuous erotic attraction between the two+ caused by the evil spirit of the tailoress. Dranticly+ she faces her angry husband+ *... that Hrs Fenner Pthe tailoressQ has fallen in love with him+ that she was very 6ealous of my life and wanted to live as did+ that she has entered )on6a Pthe daughterQ and tries to seduce the father by the daughA: ter*. When the daughter in turn wants to address the possession of the mother by her possession faith+ the rapporteur interprets this as the sure sign of her possession: * shed some tears. )he tried to hug and comfort me+ but only saw the woman hidden in her and did not let it happen. N)he is in you+ )on6a+ she is in you+ AA know it>+ said softly and left*. Dinally+ she believes her own sister-in-law being A; against her and even her own sister *was a copy of Hrs Fenner*. ?ow she concludes that her husband also must have been possessed+ this time by his own recently deceased mother. )he the impact of the evil on his hateful glare: *... tried not to provoke him+ but at certain moments there was this AE icy look with a suppressed anger*. This is not surprising in the face of such imputations and neither that he lost his appetite for se# and his wife>s cooking: *DurAthermore+ his manhood was gone*+ she notes. When he starts a new retirement hobby instead of drinking+ she complains: *,fter the possession by her Phis motherQ my husband has stayed almost e#clusively in the kitchen. He started to create A2 cakes. He has previously never baked a cake*. 8f course+ her mother-in-law loves baking and therefore provides an e#cellent e#planation for the husband>s strange behaviour. 77777
30 31 32 33 34 3> 31 3B

Ep( cit(, p( 49 Ep( cit(, p( B> Ep( cit(, p( BB Ep( cit(, p( 0> Ep( cit(, p( >1 Ep( cit(, p( 14B Ep( cit(, p( 149 Ep( cit(, p( 140


Edgar W. Harnack

Mnaffected by the fact that we have here a prime e#ample of a purely psychologically interpretable description of a possession+ some paranormal aspects+ the book contains+ remain: Poltergeist phenomena+ clairvoyant knowledge of a far away living medium+ some changes that the affected family members 4daughter and husband! show spontaneously after the banishment of the spirits 4without personal presence at the ritual!. The unlimited power of the human mind cannot be limited by the limited assumption of being the victim of a strange mind. t is also noteworthy that the consulted psychotherapeutic professionals were not able to build any relationship to Hrs )itte+ considering her assumption of possession benevolent+ while at the same time being able to address the issue in a systemic family therapy. Either way+ only the e#pulsion of the spirits was able to help this family system return to a kind of normalityC @ere, the criteria of state#ent spea- for a reduced person criterion in ter#s of a lo$er relia!ility of the e&perience for an independent insight into the phe" no#enon class of possession !y spirits of the dead( )ut ho$ is it $ith the situa" tion criterion% t see#s to !e totally certain for #any peoples that the dead #ust 'anish fro# the inter#ediate state of an earth!ound spirit into an afterlife $orld, in order to not har# the li'ing( t is also a $idespread !elief that the spir" its of people $ho $ere -no$n as untrust$orthy already in this $orld can con" tinue to ha'e an effect( Thus, this report does not contradict the already -no$n, !ut it as $ell does hardly contri!ute or enrich it( /hether $e ta-e the possession !y spirit !eings at face 'alue or as a #etaphor for a 4feeling of possession4, !eing caused !y the 4egostate4 of the person concerned, or so#e other psychological e&planation, psychological and transcendental e&planations can ne'er contradict each other (so the episte#ological !asis of transcendental psychology), !ecause !oth #ust !e #apped as an o!.ect of -no$ledge $ithin the hu#an psyche( The !oo- )oul "entered Healing !y To# Oinser, re'ie$ed !y 2lan Sanderson in the pre'ious issue of JSTP, is an e&a#ple of ho$ a synthesis of ego"state therapy and dealing $ith spirits can succeed theoretically and practically( The fact that pos" sessions and psychological causes can go hand in hand $e can also for#ulate as follo$s+ 2pparently, e'eryone gets the possession he deser'es( This is not #eant cynical or #orally+ n the case of the Sitte fa#ily there $as no #oral guilt, $hich had in'ited the possession( t $as the psychological situation of the rapporteur and her fa#ily syste#Ls o'erall situation, $hich has led to a certain perception of possession( 2fter all, e&perienced 'isionaries li-e Sa# @ess also teach that the #ental state of the li'ing and the dead is .ointly responsi!le for the action of spirits of the dead(


Encounters with immaterial beings

t is possi!le and reco##ended for e'eryone to read the#sel'es the here con" sulted, easily accessi!le sources and to chec- #y conclusions( Dor #e, as a reader, $hat $as ;uite fascinating $hen reading all these !oo-s, $hich $ere 'ery selecti'ely chosen fro# the #any 'olu#es $ith (supposedly) authentic reports a!out encounters $ith spirit !eings, $as the authentic in'ol'e#ent of all these people( n #y opinion, they descri!e e&periences that hardly anyone !elie'es the#, and often they only descri!e the# !ecause for once in a lifeti#e so#eone (often a ne$spaper ad) as-ed for it( Ef course, due to a lac- of sufficient research into this pheno#enon, the present analysis a!stains fro# any closing .udge#ent a!out the $ay in $hich i##aterial !eings e&ist+ $hether as a product of i#agi" nation (the currently #ost"represented, radical #aterialist position), $hether as a purely inner e&perience (the sy#!olist psychological 'ariant), as the e&peri" ence of an inner reality that clothes itself in the i#age of a spirit !eing (so #any Jungians understand their forefather 8( 6( Jung), as a result of the interaction of intrapersonal and transpersonal conditions (as understand the position of 8( 6( Jung), or (the su!stantialist spiritualistic 'ariant) as !eings $ith a si#ilar for# of e&ternal reality li-e incorporated hu#ans and ani#als( That $e should not re.ect the spiritualistic position $ithout !etter reasons, is founded on a principle of any science -no$n as Ecca#Qs *aIor+ Mse the si#plest theory that represents an o!ser'ation ade;uately < and until no$ $e cannot re.ected the si#plest theory $ithout further in'estigation, $hich is the spiritualistic assu#ption of the cor" rectness of the o!'ious perspecti'e( 2nother argu#ent that spea-s for the in'es" tigation of the spiritualist hypothesis is of ethical nature( Dor e'en if only a 'ery s#all possi!ility e&ists that people $ho !y the $ay of their life, their death and the attitude they sustain after death, in an afterlife $orld suffer or find happi" ness, then it is i#perati'e to pursue this possi!ility further( )ecause it $ould !e unethical in the highest degree not to e&plore carefully an entirely open ;uestion that could potentially sa'e #any people fro# suffering after death or fro# fear of death during this life(