I’ve been invited to attend a very interesting-sounding event this evening: a seance!
Other than some only semi-serious games as a youngster that revolved around solemnly intoning our intent to communicate with the dead, but which in truth really didn’t amount to much more than goofing around amid dim lighting and spooky overtones, I can’t say I have much sincere experience in this area. Not that I’m not interested — I am! — but I’ve just never happened across enough other people with genuine interest all at the same time, such that I made it onto the guest list for such a thing. Apparently, though, the time is right, and I can’t help now but be reminded of the concept of the psychopomp…
Do you know this term? If you break it down by its roots, you get the prefix, “psycho-” — generally “mind” or “soul” — and the word, “pomp,” which means a stately procession or display. So, taken together, that pretty easily yields up the definition that people are largely intending when they use the term in an Occult context. That is, a psychopomp is someone or something charged with the responsibility of escorting newly deceased souls to the afterlife.
Death is obviously one of the most profound realities attendant to the experience of being alive in the first place, and many bodies of mythology and folklore attribute psychopomp traits to various Deities, animals, and fantastical beings. Death itself is even given a visual representation in Western iconography and granted psychopomp status: who doesn’t recognize the ominous figure of the Grim Reaper, usually depicted as a skeletal being enshrouded in a robe and cowl, and bearing a long scythe for use in reaping souls? This embodiment of Death itself is very often portrayed as arriving at the moment of a person’s demise, and ushering them onward to What Comes Next…
So sweeping and so common to us all is our need to try to come to terms with the meaning and magnitude of death, that virtually any religion and any geographical region you can think of will have produced one or more psychopomp figures in its history.
Many cultures also deal with the idea that spirits who lack the benefit of proper psychopomp guidance can find themselves essentially stuck between life and afterlife, unable to move on effectively, with their presences then felt here on Earth as “ghosts” — sometimes these ghosts are thought to manifest as sad, lost souls, at times not even fully aware of the natures of their own predicaments…sometimes they can be benevolent spirits (maybe of loved ones) who intentionally remain behind in order to help the living or to see some specific bit of business completed…and sometimes there are cases where the living believe themselves beset by much more malevolent specters with evil agendas. Ghosts can be as varied in their aims and personalities as the humans from whom they derive.
And plenty of people will attest to sensing such spirits. I know several people in my own personal orbit who have experience with exactly such contact with the spirit world — and honestly, on the one hand, a few of these are people I respect and trust and believe in all of this…while on the other hand, several others just tend to inspire a fairly robust helping of skepticism on my part for various reasons… But overall, while I myself can’t claim any comparable incidents of my own in which I heard, saw, or otherwise interacted with or perceived a deceased spirt, I do at least remain open to the possibility that such things could happen. That’s partly why I’m so looking forward to tonight’s festivities: I want to see what can occur in situations in which people experienced in this realm actually get together with the intention of bringing about exactly this kind of contact. My mind brims with optimism and positive belief here!
But whether actual ghosts can exist, and can furthermore interact here on Earth with the living, there’s one other interpretation of the psychopomp that I feel deserves some mention here, as well. As with quite a lot of principles in Occult thought, this one ties in to principles of psychology, and specifically to ideas put forth by Carl Jung…
In Jungian thought, a psychopomp can be not just a figure who helps souls to bridge the gulf between life and death — it can also refer to a presence who acts as intermediary between the conscious and the unconscious minds. These can be figures that appear in dreams, archetypal entities that we carry within ourselves, or possibly even hallucinations that crop up during periods of wakefulness, all rife with intense symbolic meaning. Occult viewpoints will often have it that the real work happens below waking consciousness, and we sometimes need some kind of mediator or guide to convey the results of our unconscious processes into our conscious minds. This is where the psychopomp comes in.
So with respect to this evening’s docket, I’m open to actual spirits appearing amid the gathered throng…and I’m also open to the possibility that even if that doesn’t happen, that one or more of the attendees may succeed in opening some channel that better connects their conscious and unconscious minds, even if only for a limited interval. I’m very curious to see if any of us end up having any extra-vivid dreams in the next night or two following this seance event, or if any of us stumble across recurring symbols in the waking world as we go about our business. And it could be that nothing at all will come of all this…but I prefer to think that something will happen for sure, and that just because this something may elude the grasp of my conscious mind, my unconscious will still recognize and enjoy the benefits of any psychopomp activity that goes down.
And therefore, my motto in all this will be what the great Blue Oyster Cult have been reminding us for nearly four decades now: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper!”