What is your encounter with the paranormal

When we meet the dead again in person

In Bad Herrenalb, Dr. Dr. Walter von Lucadou, head of the parapsychological counseling center in Freiburg. Appearances of the deceased or near-death experiences would often be understood by those affected as proof of the existence of the soul and the assumption that it can do without a body. For many such experiences are "a comforting indication of the survival of the soul after death". In the 21st century, too, attempts would be made to contact the deceased via so-called "media", reported von Lucadou. Corresponding experience reports on "transcommunication" would, however, often be understood by the public as "metaphysical trimmings" with which people tried to suppress the inevitability of their death.

Language of the dead

In a contribution on "the language of the dead from Swedenborg to Proust" the pastoral psychologist Detlev Spitzbart (Weinheim) also took up the phenomenon of spiritualism. Elementary for spiritism is a so-called medium "that mediates between the dead and the living". With the technique of the séance, spiritualism democratized the hearing of the language of the dead and questioned the interpretative sovereignty of the church hierarchy and academic theology.

Dealing with the dead outside of Europe

The religious scholar Dr. Katharina Wilkens (Munich). She shed light on the diversity of spirits in a country like Tanzania and how to deal with them in the different religious traditions. At the end of a funeral ceremony, the aim is that the deceased is transformed into an ancestor and can protectively intervene in the life of the family from the land of the ancestors. In addition to the ancestors, there are also a number of other spirits, ghosts and witches, so that a simple demarcation is often neither possible nor ritually necessary.

Importance of contact with the deceased

Sabine Kast-Streib, director of the Center for Pastoral Care Heidelberg, said that after the death of a close person, many people actually experienced that the deceased remained 'present'. In mourning and grief counseling, however, the opposite phenomenon is also experienced: people suffer from the fact that the deceased are no longer 'present' for them. In recent grief research and literature, the importance of the relationship with the deceased has been explicitly worked out. In theology, as well as in pastoral and liturgical practice, the importance of contact with the deceased is increasingly being rediscovered and appreciated.

Pastor Sabine Wendlandt, psychiatric pastor on the Reichenau, illustrated with concrete examples how pastoral and liturgically responsible people's wishes for contact with the deceased can be dealt with. Désirée Binder, graduate psychologist and head of studies at the Center for Pastoral Care, gave impulses from a systemic and family therapeutic point of view from the perspective of "Alive in our soul - even beyond death".

Alien realities

Under the title "Strange Realities", Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Drechsel, Scientific Director of the Center for Pastoral Care, selects border areas in pastoral care. In the context of dying and death there are many things that cannot be rationally explained and are difficult to bring together with familiar ideas. He pointed out that when dealing with death, there are cultures in which the presence of the dead is ritually regulated and others that insist on a strict separation of life and the realm of the dead. In this country, reports of encounters with the deceased are often not taken seriously or pathologized. Drechsel encouraged people to take their experiences seriously without being absorbed in them: Pastoral care should create a fear-free space in which people dared to talk about seemingly strange realities.

Develop liturgy

Dr. Gernot Meier, Weltanschauung commissioner at the Evangelical Church in Baden, emphasized that encounters with the deceased or communication with beings from other worlds are quite normal for many people. But phenomena related to the question of the deceased are traditionally ignored in Germany. "If we as a church do not concern ourselves with such phenomena and take a theological position," we leave the field to the charismatic communities or contemporary Western esotericism, said Meier. It is important to develop new rituals and a liturgy that serve to strengthen people seeking advice who have had experiences with other realities.

Ralf Stieber, Karlsruhe, April 11, 2016