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The Mystery of Soul Mist Unsolved

Posted on 22 June 2020, 9:38

In his 2010 book, Glimpses of Eternity, Raymond Moody, M. D., Ph.D., who is known primarily for his pioneering work in near-death experiences, mentions a strange mist having been observed at deathbeds.  “Some say that it looks like smoke, while others say it is as subtle as steam,” Moody explains.  “Sometimes it seems to have a human shape.  Whatever the case, it usually drifts upward and always disappears fairly quickly.”

A hospice psychologist is quoted by Moody as saying that the misty clouds which form above the head or chest seem to have an electrical component to them. Moody also tells of a nurse seeing a mist rising from many patients as they die, including her father, with whom she saw it emanate from his chest “as if off a still river,” then hovering for a few seconds before dissipating.

Such a phenomenon can be observed in the accompanying photo which was taken by the dying man’s wife, Beverly, on January 17, 2009, in Prescott, Arizona just five minutes after her husband, Ronald, passed. For privacy reasons, Beverly prefers not to give her surname.  She provided the information to Bob Krieckhaus, who passed it on to me with Beverly’s consent. Beverly told Bob that neither she nor the hospice helpers saw the twisting semi-translucent “smoke” at the time.  The purpose of the photo was to capture the cat, which appeared to have tears in its eyes. The misty vapor was not noticed until the photo was printed. (See below.)


In their 2008 book, The Art of Dying, Dr. Peter Fenwick, a renowned British neuropsychiatrist, and Elizabeth Fenwick also discuss the “smoke,” “grey mist,” or “white mist” which leaves the body at death.  “Sometimes it will hover above the body before rising to disappear through the ceiling, and it is often associated with love, light, compassion, purity, and occasionally with heavenly music,” they write, adding that not everyone who is in the room sees it.

The Fenwicks quote a woman named Penny Bilcliffe, who was present when her sister died:  “I saw a fast-moving ‘Will ‘o the Wisp’ appear to leave her body by the side of her mouth on the right.  The shock and the beauty of it made me gasp.  It appeared like a fluid or gaseous diamond, pristine, sparkly, and pure, akin to the view from above of an eddy in the clearest pool you can imagine…It moved rapidly upwards and was gone.”

Such misty vapors have been reported by other researchers, including Dr. Bernard Laubscher, a South African psychiatrist.  “I was told by different ‘Tant Sannies’ (caregivers) how while watching at the bedside of the dying one with one or two candles burning they had seen the formation of a faint vaporous body, an elongated whitish purplish-like cloud; parallel with the dying person and about two feet above the body,” Laubscher wrote in a 1975 book, Beyond Life’s Curtain.  “Gradually this cloudlike appearance became denser and took on the form, first vaguely and then more definitely, of the person in the bed.  This process continued until the phantom suspended above the body was an absolute replica of the person, especially the face.”

Laubscher further wrote that these caregivers, some of whom were apparently clairvoyant, reported seeing a ribbon-like cord stretching from the back of the phantom’s head to the body below and that the phantom would begin to glow as it was fully formed.

“They noticed that some were more luminous than others and there was a light all around the outline of the [phantom], which I could only compare to a neon tube,” Laubscher added, going on to say that as the phantom righted itself the connecting cord thinned out as if it was fraying away.  Sometimes these clairvoyant caregivers would report joyous faces of other deceased gathering around to welcome the person to the spirit world before the “silver cord” was severed and the visions ceased.

As Laubscher came to understand it, the vaporous material has the same makeup as ectoplasm, (below) the mysterious substance given off by physical mediums before materializations.  It acts as sort of a “glue” in bonding the physical body with the spirit body, and the more materialistic a person the denser the ectoplasm and the more difficulty the person has in “giving up the ghost.”


Beginning in 1840, Baron Karl von Reichenbach, a German chemist,  carried out research with an invisible energy he associated with a number of “sensitives” – people who today might be called clairvoyants or clairsensients, although he did not recognize it as being spirit related.  He called it odic force, or just od or odyle.  Some scientists have likened Reichenbach’s odic force to the prana of the ancient Hindus, the vis medicatrix naturae of Hippocrates, the mana of Polynesian culture, the chi of the Chinese,  the astral light of the Kabbalists, the telesma of Hermes Trismegistus, and the magnetic fluid of Mesmer, while others, like Laubscher, have concluded that it is the same “life force” referred to as ectoplasm, or teleplasm, by researchers investigating the physical phenomena of mediums.

Od might be best described as a “mostly” invisible energy field often associated today with the human aura and with holistic healing. It is believed to somehow interact with the physical body through what are called the chakras, the vital energy centers in the spirit body, to govern higher consciousness and spiritual awakening.

When Judge John Edmonds, of the New York Supreme Court, investigated mediums,  he asked a communicating “spirit” for an explanation as to what the “forces” involved in various manifestations were all about. “It is an electricity, but more perfected than that which you are familiar, that which you term electricity,” the communicating spirit responded, telling Edmonds that his knowledge of nature was too imperfect to permit him to understand the phenomena.  He was referred by the communicating spirit to Reichenbach’s Dynamics of Magnetism for a better grasp of the subject.  There, Edmonds read about odic force, Reichenbach describing it in his book as “an exceeding subtle fluid, existing with magnetism and electricity, found in fire and heat, and produced in the human body by the chemical action of respiration and digestion and decomposition, and issuing from the body in the shape of a pale flame, with sparks, and smoke, and material in its nature, though so much sublimated as to be visible only to persons of a peculiar vision.”

During the 1870s, William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest who developed mediumisitic abilities, carried out various experiments.  In one such experiment, with Dr. Stanhope Speer, his good friend, and several others in attendance, the group witnessed a cloud of luminous smoke, very phosphorus like, that very much alarmed them.  The next night, Moses asked the controlling spirit, apparently Mentor, one of Imperator’s band of 49 spirits, what it was all about. As set forth by researcher Ernest Bozzano in The Annals of Psychical Research, Feb. 1905 issue, the following dialogue too place:

Mentor: “We are scarcely able to write. The shock has destroyed your passivity. It was an accident. The envelope in which is contained the substance which we gather from the bodies of the sitters was accidentally destroyed, and hence the escape into outer air, and the smoke which terrified you. It was owing to a new operator (spirit operator) being engaged on the experiment. We regret the shock to you.”

Moses: “I was extremely alarmed. It was just like phosphorus.”
Mentor: “No, but similar. We told you when first we began to make the lights that they were attended with some risk; and that with unfavourable conditions they would be smoky and of a reddish yellow hue.”
Moses: “Yes, I know. But not that they would make a smoke and scene like that.”
Mentor: “Nor would they, save by accident. The envelope was destroyed by mischance, and the substance which we had gathered escaped.”
Moses: “What substance?”
Mentor:  “That which we draw from the bodily organisms of the sitters. We had a large supply, seeing that neither of you had sustained any drain of late.”
Moses: “You draw it from our bodies – from all?”:
Mentor:  “From both of you. You are both helpful in this, both. But not from all people. From some the substance cannot be safely drawn, lest we diminish the life principle too much.”
Moses: “Robust men give it off?”
Mentor: “Yes, in greater proportion. It is the sudden loss of it and the shock that so startled you that caused the feeling of weakness and depression.”
Moses: “It seemed to come from the side of the table.”
Mentor: “From the darkened space between the sitters. We gathered it between you in the midst. Could you have seen with spirit eyes you would have discovered threads of light, joined to your bodies and leading to the space where the substance was being collected. These lines of light were ducts leading to our receptacle.”
Moses: “From what part of my body?”
Mentor: “From many; from the nerve centers and from the spine.”
Moses: “What is this substance?”
Mentor: “In simple words, it is that which give to your bodies vitality and energy. It is the life principle.”
Moses: “Very like sublimated phosphorus?”
Mentor: “No body that does not contain a large portion of what you call phosphorus is serviceable to us for objective manifestations. This is invariable. There are other qualities of which you do not know, and which not all spirits can tell, but this is invariable in mediums for physical manifestations.”

On another occasion, Imperator communicated: “We have a higher form of what is known to you as electricity, and it is by that means we are enabled to manifest, and that Mentor shows his globe of light. He brings with him the nucleus, as we told you.”

On August 10, 1873, Dr. Speer recorded that Mentor said he would show his hand. “A large, very bright light then came up as before, casting a great reflection on the oilcloth, came up as before in front of me; inside of it appeared the hand of Mentor, as distinct as it can well be conceived. ‘You see! You see!’ said he, ‘that is my hand; now I move my fingers,’ and he continued to move his fingers about freely, just in front of my face. I thanked him for his consideration.”

At a sitting on September 11, 1873, Mrs. Speer recorded: “... the next evening we sat again in perfect darkness, which Mentor took advantage of, as he showed lights almost as soon as we were seated. He then controlled the medium (Moses), talking to us about the lights as he showed them. At first they were very small. This, he said, was the nucleus of light he had brought with him, a small amount of what we should call electricity. This nucleus lasted all the time, and from the circle he gathered more light around it, and kept it alive by contact with the medium. At one time, the light was as bright as a torch. Mentor moved it about all over the table and above our heads with the greatest rapidity.”

All that and much more, but mainstream science has shown no interest in odic force,  ectoplasm, or soul mist, or the possibility that they are one and the same life principle. 

Note: This subject was earlier dealt with in my blog posts of October 4, 2010 and June 11, 2012, available in the archives at left.  Numerous readers have left comments of similar experiences at the 4 October blog.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due later in 2020.

Next blog post:  July 6

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Getting to the Root Cause of America’s Madness

Posted on 08 June 2020, 8:29

In a talk given to a church group on June 1, a well-known American politician proposed that police could cut down on killings by shooting the bad guy in the leg rather than in the upper body.  Such a comment suggests that the politician has watched too many cowboy movies and has no real experience with guns.  He might as well have suggested that the cop shoot the weapon out of the bad guy’s hand.  Anyone with any marksmanship training knows that things are not nearly so easy as Hollywood makes them out to be. 

If some madman is rushing toward you with a knife, you don’t have time to line up your target in the sights of the gun and gently “squeeze” the trigger.  If you were to shoot for the legs, you would likely, in your haste, jerk the trigger and miss the leg completely.  To be accurate, you’d want to point the gun at the madman’s center, being his manhood area.  In that case, jerking the trigger might result in a shot in the leg. Then again, you might actually hit his manhood or miss him completely.  I wouldn’t bet on either Wyatt Earp or Billy the Kid hitting the legs more than 50 percent of the time under rushed conditions at 10 paces. 

Ideally, or idealistically, we don’t want to kill anybody, and nobody should be toting a gun, but practically, or pragmatically, such inaction may very well result in more deaths, violence or harm in the long run than shooting the bad guy in the heart and killing him. Idealism or Pragmatism?  Therein seems to be the major issue in our political wars. As I see it, the entertainment and advertising industries are responsible for much of the current chaos in the United States and in the world by painting a much too idealistic picture of the “real” world – a world, according to them, of great comforts, luxuries, and hedonistic pleasures. Envy and greed kick in and then many who aspire to such unreality become frustrated and angry when they are unable to achieve the Utopian dream, which both Hollywood and Madison Avenue say they deserve.

I don’t know how many times in recent years I’ve heard the “You deserve it” enticement. I’ll sometimes ask the person what I’ve done to deserve it, but most people seem to agree that they deserve anything they can get, whether or not they’ve put any effort into earning it.  I may very well be wrong, but I see this as the mindset of many young people.   

Looking for votes and power, politicians respond to the demands for comforts, luxuries,  and hedonistic pleasures with entitlement programs.  The entitlements often approach or exceed the incomes of working people, thereby playing havoc with the work ethic of the masses.  A new government comes in and cuts back on the “free stuff” in hopes of restoring the work ethic and increasing productivity. Frustration and anger reach a boiling point, fears surface, the media polarizes and sensationalizes the issues which are otherwise in various shades of gray, protests begin, and soon there is complete mayhem. 

Renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl referred to it as “mass neurotic syndrome” – the result of an “existential vacuum,” a feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness in their lives. The more one seeks pleasure, Frankl observed, the more it eludes him. “Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect, or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree in which it is made a goal in itself.”  A human being, he continued, is not one in pursuit of happiness, but one in search of a reason to become happy. Self-actualization, he further proclaimed, is possible only as a side effect of self-transcendence.

“Neither a person nor a nation can exist without some higher idea,” wrote Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the renowned author of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov.  “And there is only one higher idea on earth, and it is the idea of the immortality of the human soul, for all other ‘higher’ ideas of life by which humans might live derive from that idea alone.”

Pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote that most of his patients were non-believers, those who had lost their faith.  They were neurotics.  “They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success or money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking,” Jung wrote. “Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon.  Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning.” 

William James, one of the founders of modern psychology, put it this way:  “Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet. In the practical life of the individual, we know how his whole gloom or glee about any present fact depends on the remoter schemes and hopes of which it stands related.  Its significance and framing give it the chief part of its value.  Let it be known to lead nowhere, and however agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow and gilding vanish.”

I like the way Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding (Sir Hugh Dowding, 1882 - 1970), put it in his 1960 book, God’s Magic.  “The problem of world chaos is linked very closely with the chaos in the mind of humanity,” offered Dowding, considered the man most responsible for Great Britain’s victory in the 1940 Battle of Britain during World War II.  “Man insists on looking outward for causes instead of looking inward.  As with the individual, so with a nation.  An individual who has an unquiet spirit will have an unquiet environment.”

If I am interpreting Frankl, Dostoyevsky, Jung, James, Dowding and other great thinkers correctly, the conscious self wants the comforts, luxuries, and hedonistic pleasures of Hollywood and Madison Avenue, but the subconscious (the soul) wants peace of mind and enlightenment, and those things come only with seeing this life as a part of a much larger one.  Therein is the conflict that goes unrecognized by presidents, politicians, and the media.  It is much easier for them to say that people are angry about social or economic conditions, than to say they are in existential despair.  If they suggest that people are in such despair, they have to explain the reason for the despair. It would not be politically, journalistically or scientifically proper to say that the pursuit of unreasonable comforts, luxuries, and pleasures as promoted by Hollywood and Madison Avenue have detracted from their spiritual values and pursuits and that they therefore have lost sight of the larger life.  It is so much simpler to blame it on anger over economic deprivations and social injustices than to explain the deeper underlying causes. 

If politicians and journalists had the wisdom and courage to tackle the existential issues, they’d suffer relentless attacks from people like Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, who recently said that “belief in an afterlife is a malignant delusion, since it devalues actual lives and discourages action that would make them longer, safer, and happier.”  Some of our more right-wing politicians now take some pride in mentioning God, but their fundamentalist beliefs are in shallow, murky waters and therefore not very persuasive to rational people.  They only add fuel to the fire. 

I don’t know what the answer is as long as the Hollywood and Madison Avenue influences continue to encourage young malleable minds to pursue unreasonable comforts, luxuries, and hedonistic pleasures while telling them that they deserve them and need not apply any effort in achieving them.  Perhaps that is what the pandemic is all about – helping them to lower their expectations. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due later in 2020.

Next blog post:  June 22






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Ukraine War: A Story of Survival, Sacrifice, and Service – If charitable service to those in need is the ultimate in spirituality here in the physical life, this book most certainly deals with spiritual matters. The author, Amber Poole, an American woman and her husband, Paul, from Scotland but with Polish roots, operated an educational center in Poland when the Russians attacked Ukraine in 2022. As many Ukrainians fled to Poland, they turned their center into a home for as many as 40 refugees. The author kept a very interesting “war diary” over the first 18 months of the war, discussing everything from the cultural adjustments required by both the Polish and the Ukrainians to her own reactions and adjustments, as well as philosophical concerns and conflicts that often surfaced. In spite of the adversity and distress, she embraced the adversity. Read here
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