Life after death: Researchers unravel mystery of why voices of dead can be ‘heard’

Afterlife: Expert discusses 'feelings' in near-death experiences

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Belief in the afterlife is a fairly universal concept that is supported – with a few notable exceptions – by most of the world’s religions. There are people who claim to have caught a glimpse of the afterlife, such as the woman who believes she stood before Jesus Christ Himself after she stopped breathing in her sleep. These so-called near-death experiences (NDEs) often involved fantastical and equally terrifying visions and hallucinations that some scientists believe are chemical and not paranormal in nature.

Similarly, scientists have attempted to explain why many people all across the globe claim to “hear” the voices of the dead.

So-called spiritualists or mediums have inspired Hollywood and horror writers with tales of their supposed ghastly exploits for decades.

But new research indicates there are certain traits and mental activities that may predispose people to “unusual auditory experiences” early on in life.

The research focused on clairaudient mediums, who unlike clairvoyant (seeing) or clairsentient (feeling or seeing) mediums, believe they can “hear” the spirits of the dead.

The study’s authors carried out a survey of 65 clairaudient spiritualist mediums from the Spiritualists’ National Union, as well as 143 people from the general public.

According to their findings, spiritualists tend to have an innate disposition towards absorption.

Psychologists describe absorption as a trait in which people can become absorbed in their own fantasy and imagination, often linked to an altered state of consciousness.

The APA Dictionary of Psychology describes absorption as “an extreme involvement or preoccupation with one object, idea, or pursuit, with inattention to other aspects of the environment”.

According to the study, mediums are more likely to report unusual phenomena, such as hearing voices, often early on in their lives.

Many people who hear these voices are driven to search for spiritual explanations in a bid to find meaning.

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The incredible research was published last year in the journal Mental Health, Religions and Culture.

It was published as part of Hearing the Voice – an interdisciplinary study focused on hearing voices that were based at Durham University and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The study found that more than 44 percent of the surveyed spiritualists reported hearing voices on a daily basis.

And about 33.8 percent reported a clairaudience experience within the last day.

The majority of those surveyed (79 percent) also said hearing voices was very much part of their daily lives as it occurred when alone as well as when working as a medium.

The researchers were told 65.1 percent heard the voices inside of their heads and 31.7 percent heard the voice both in and outside of their heads.

When ranked on a scale of absorption and how strongly they believe in the paranormal, the spiritualists rated much higher then the general public.

The spiritualists reported their first auditory experiences at an average age of 21.7 percent.

The survey also found some 18 percent claims to have had the experiences “for as long as they could remember” and 71 percent had not come across the spiritualist movement before their experiences began.

According to the study’s authors, it is a predisposition to absorption that can lead to these experiences early on, rather than social pressures and beliefs in paranormal experiences.

Lead researcher Dr Adam Powell, in Durham University’s Hearing the Voice project and Department of Theology and Religion, said: “Our findings say a lot about ‘learning and yearning’.

“For our participants, the tenets of Spiritualism seem to make sense of both extraordinary childhood experiences as well as the frequent auditory phenomena they experience as practising mediums.

“But all of those experiences may result more from having certain tendencies or early abilities than from simply believing in the possibility of contacting the dead if one tries hard enough.”

Dr Peter Moseley, study co-author at Northumbria University, added: “Spiritualists tend to report unusual auditory experiences which are positive, start early in life and which they are often then able to control.

“Understanding how these develop is important because it could help us understand more about distressing or non-controllable experiences of hearing voices too.”

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