I'm going to tell you what I learned about talking to dead people at The Monroe Institute (TMI) and how you can do it yourself without going there or spending money. Finally, I'll tell you a true story of TMI weirdness, and how I changed someone's life by becoming a psychic for a day.

Why I did it, and you might want to:

Forever there are things I can explain, and some I can't. I had to be comfortable with that to make it through life. Otherwise I'd have spent the balance of my time on earth sitting in front of my house in the Buick, the engine off under the blue-white streetlamp, talking to my best high-school buddy Joe till four AM on topics like: why the God of love kills babies in earthquakes, why Mary laughed at his prom invitation, what it must like to be dead, and how to keep Jackie from figuring out I had no idea where her clitoris was.

When I grew up I realized forgetting those mind-twisting teleological questions that kept Einstein up all night would keep me from chewing off my own limbs. I moved on to those questions I had some hope to solve.

In the end, both Joe and I were satisfied with the answers to the questions we could attain by asking.

Mary told Joe he was a jerk, and then he knew.

Jackie squeezed two of my fingers, put them where she wanted, said, "Not there. Here," and then I knew.

And then we got older and Jackie's body got so busted in a car accident that she died and took her clitoris with her. Then Joe died filling his veins with opiates. Now he knows the answer to that question, too.

But I survived, and I remember both of them. The older I get the more of the people that help me figure out life wind up inert and loveless like rocks and my microwave oven. Their eyes stop sparkling, so they can't narrow them and kiss me anymore. They can't teach me what it's like to be them anymore.

I want to believe in my life. I want to believe in Jackie and me in the back seat of the Mercury at Scenic Drive in New Jersey, the way she breathed like I had made her immortal, how I felt my soul was connected to stars. I want to believe in watching Joe's piano concerto at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music and feeling proud he was my friend. I want to believe those things aren't worthless.

That's what I want, even though it might not be true.

One of my friends is Taiwanese. She says when you die your soul walks the earth in spirit form for four days, then evaporates, your energy passing back to the cosmos it came from.

One of my friends is an existentialist. She says when you die nothing happens. One big nothing.

One of my friends is a Christian. She says when you die you have to stand in front of God and get judged for everything you did in life. Then you go to heaven or hell, or purgatory if you're Italian.

One of my friends is Jewish. She doesn't know what happens when you die, just that it's going to happen.

One of my friends is me. I'm sick of my pals dying and leaving me here to wonder what it was like, where they are, and if I'm ever going to see them again or they're going to become part of an endless tape loop of memory that plays in my brain while I'm sipping pablum in a nursing home.

When you're hurting, being illogical takes a low priority to pain reduction. So even though it was completely ridiculous and went against everything I'd learned as an engineer and physicist, talking to my dead pals through technology sure as hell sounded good to me. A bunch of people who loved me are hanging out in that dead somewhere city, and I miss them. A whole fucking lot.

So I went to the Monroe Institute.

Lots of red flags go up in your head. They should. This is how cults start. People in pain are manipulated by those practiced in crowd control. They get together and try to believe something illogical as if group-participation will make it true.

I can only tell you what I know. As far as I can tell, The Monroe Institute is neither a cult nor are there any that have erupted from it. Though, I can't guarantee that I won't some day get a phone call and hear, "Afghanistan banana stand," or, "The sleeper awakens," and run off to take control of the local government. I mean, I don't THINK that's going to happen. But when you've subjected yourself to mind control, you never know.

How do you find it?

Websites. Some publicity in books published about psychic spying by former psychic spies. Mostly you find out by meeting someone who has been there. TMI does not advertise. Their classes are always full. Some people take more than one course, like I did, but more than half never return.

Where is it?

The Monroe Institute is in Faber, Virginia. Faber is in Nelson County. That's pretty much nowhere if you come from someplace like New York or San Francisco.

If you're doing work for the government, it's a great location. Close to DC. Close to all the intelligence services. Far enough out of the way so that when the UFO's land they don't interfere with the traffic pattern at Dulles.

What is it?

Simply put, it's a place where they have seminars that teach meditation techniques. Yes, they have some technology to help you relax yourself. Hypnotize yourself.

Yes, they have quartz crystals there and some people believe all those minerals can be mystical because they're smooth and translucent. However, most of the people I've met at TMI think the crystals and Kumbaya stories are bullshit. Most of them are trying to figure out how to deal with the bulk of life's pain and weirdness without the props.

In the classes I attended most of the attendees were either physicians, scientists, engineers, or otherwise professional people. Perhaps this was the most non-secular, non-invasive foray into a spiritual belief system their good sense would allow. It was for me, anyway.

Days at TMI are broken into several parts: meditation sessions and debrief, meals, a lecture, and free time. There are typically two to three meditation sessions in the morning, and two to three after lunch. Usually, no meditation is done after dinner. There is sometimes a guest speaker.

The Monroe Institute sells its patented technology on tapes and CDs. You can buy these and zap your brain at will. I've found them very useful in helping to get to sleep on long plane trips.

The big secret of talking to dead people:

You talk to dead people by believing you can, and interpreting coincidences, hallucinations, and dream-snippets, as communication rather than as random neural activity. The more seriously you believe your dreams and hallucinations have meaning, the more meaning they will have. A side effect of this is you may begin to seem to have lost a bit of contact with the reality everyone else sees. Don't worry about it. It makes you more interesting to people who buy books by Deepak Chopra and Ram Dass. Some of them are pretty good looking.

It helps to believe things when you're in a susceptible state. Hypnotic states make you susceptible. When you're in a hypnotic state you're liable to see alternate realities. Some people would call this hallucinating. Others would call it tapping into worlds in other dimensions. What you call something affects what it is to you, and so what it is in reality. If you're buzzing around in a hypnotic state watching the pretty colors, then paint your hair blue, call yourself "Sunbeam", pop on the Grateful Dead CDs, and let's party.

If you're buzzing around in a hypnotic state visiting strange cities and speaking to the village elders of tribes that won't exist on earth for another three thousand years, then take notes. You have a book to write.

In this process, you get some form of exactly what you're looking for.

Seeing alternate realities with your own brain helps you believe strange things, such as the idea you can talk to dead people.

And then actually talking to dead people pretty much seals it.

There are lots of tapes and CDs available to help put you into a hypnotic, suggestive state. These are modern and utilize lots of synthesizers and computer generated sound. Another way to do it is to listen to Bach.

Dead people, at least the ones that you can talk to, don't seem to have a lot of influence over events on planet earth. If they did, everybody would know they were around. What they teach at TMI is that their influence is very subtle, and that if you quiet your body and mind you're more likely to perceive them.

This is why, they say, being quiet, meditative, humble, and open, helps you perceive them.

There are issues in there about "helper" beings, energy bodies, bright lights, etc. You can take that or leave it. The way you talk to dead people is to get yourself comfortable and fall about half asleep--asleep enough that it's hard to move, but not so asleep you're dreaming. Think about talking to them, and then you do. You can practice going into and out of this state by taking naps on the sofa and talking to yourself beforehand, reminding yourself that this time you're going to sleep you're doing it to talk to dead people.

Remember, anything you repeat in earnest with the ferocity of an obsession is bound to end up in your dreams. When it does, take advantage.

Once you've opened the appropriate "channels", you can communicate without putting yourself to sleep by training yourself to relax at will. Then you can remember the feeling of being relaxed and talking to Joe DiMaggio, and do it any time you want (but you may get Babe Ruth).

From this half-awake, half-asleep state you can also leave your body and go to Charlene's house and watch her take a shower. Some people do things like that. They're called out of body experiences. Talking to dead people is just another form of OOBE.

TMI adds structure to the process. There are things they call "focus levels" (dead people hang out between focus 23 and focus 27, for whatever that's worth) and there is a whole structure of thought that describes the process of leaving a human body (permanently, death is the ultimate OOBE) and moving on. All of that makes for good science fiction, in my mind. The bottom line is that if you're quiet and honestly receptive, things will speak to you.

But then, every medicine woman and shaman in every culture on the planet knows that.

It's also a really good idea to protect yourself when you do this. At TMI, they suggest imagining yourself surrounded by a big ball of white energy that only lets in good stuff. Other methods tell you different things, but the concept is universal and transcends new age techniques, which may give it some validity. If you open up your brain in the middle of what amounts to New York Harbor on garbage day, you're liable to get some crap in there. There are lots of horror stories of kids summoning up evil things with Ouija boards, and you can believe them or not. The bottom line is that it takes you 1/2 a second to imagine you're protected, and then you are.

Or so I'm told.

The thing you must remember is this: the voices of dead people are indistinguishable from your own imagination. The voice they use is the voice you use when you're thinking to yourself. The pictures they use to show you things are the ones from your memory, not theirs. So you must decide whether you've made them up, or you're hearing them, or you're going crazy. The delta between hearing the voices of the dead and Sam the Son of the Killer Dog is epsilon (as we engineers say). Translation: the difference between being crazy and being John Edward is so small it's not detectable by human instrumentation.

How I talked to Matt's dead wife and changed his life:

The problem with talking to dead people is that it's like walking into a crowded shopping mall with a wad of cash and screaming, "Free money." There are a hell of a lot of dead people out there. They all have something interesting to say. Some of them would like for you to contact their relatives and tell them they're okay. Some would like to beat the crap of the guy who ran them over with the bulldozer. But most of them don't want anyone to worry about them anymore.

Dead people are generally very smart and usually altruistic. Everyone is smarter dead than alive, because free from the physical confines of space and time, you tend to know nearly everything you could have or should have learned while alive, or so it is said.

And so your communication instructors will tell you that even though your looking for dead person "A", you may not get to talk to that person. Whomever you speak with will be important for you to speak with. Because in the end, the right thing happens.

What a pleasant thought--that in the end whatever is best for you is going to happen, even if you don't realize it. Dead people know this.

Which brings me to sitting in my office one afternoon, writing a story, just as I am now. I had not yet gone to TMI's Lifelines course, which is the class where they teach you talking to the dead. I wasn't even thinking about talking to dead people. I was writing a short story about people in love, which is what I usually write about.

Having no concept of time and knowing I would be learning how to speak to them sooner or later, a dead person began speaking to me. Because when you write, your brain is pretty open. You're wide open to that field of dreams where your creativity lives. You all know the feeling. For me, it's a sort of zoned-out feeling, like being a grade school kid staring out the classroom window on the first day of spring. My eyes relax, and my brain gets quiet, and someone could set off a suitcase nuke under my seat and I wouldn't notice it.

This is the perfect state to communicate with the dead, but I didn't realize it at the time. And I also didn't realize a dead person was talking to me. I though she was a character in my story. My characters always talk to me. I write what they say and what they do.

This story started with a poem. I'm lousy at poetry, as you have determined by other nodes I have written. Poetry does not frequently come to me with any degree of spontaneity. This one did. I imagined a woman, about 28-years old, short dirty-blonde hair, blue eyes, not so slender, but not stocky, wide hips, about 5'9" tall, round face, rounded features.

She was reciting a poem to her lover. She said:

I would know you anywhere, Though oceans and stones and years may intervene, I could more easily forget my home, Than the sound of your voice, The glide of your hand against my cheek.

And I will always love you, Neither time nor death shall quench that flame, Of everyone, you should know that's true.

How could you forget I am always with you? You need but call me, And I am. Because when I said, "I love you," It was all I was.

I wrote all that down along with some words to the story about the lovers, and I stuffed them in my notebook figuring that I'd finish it when I had the time.

But I never had the time and the poem and story sat in my notebook until the Lifelines course at TMI.

During every TMI course you perform some exercises and of them my favorites are the ones in which you try to perform psychic feats upon each other. One evening we performed an exercise in which we were each issued a random number. The numbers were placed into a hat, and each of us picked one being sure not to pick the number we were originally assigned. I drew number 13.

We were then asked to go back to our rooms and meditate to some hypnotic tape music. During the meditation we were supposed to ask the ether for a message for the person whose number we had picked.

During my tape session I got nothing. Not even a peep of a hallucination. I lay staring at the back of my eyelids. So I decided I would do a little experiment. I turned on my light, took the story from my notes, and decided I would tell Mr. or Ms. number 13 the story I had made up months before. And I embellished it a bit because it was incomplete.

I decided to hide my lousy hand at poetry by saying the woman had English as a second language and so was awkward saying poems in English. Also, the poem had been translated from another language--say Polish--because who the hell speaks Polish but Polish people, and it was a lot less common in the US than say Spanish or French.

I decided the poem was to the woman's husband who had drifted away from her emotionally cause after a brief separation he thought she'd forgotten him. The poem was her pleading for him to come back. That she had never left him and would always be his wife. And I decided I would tell my fellow students that I had "seen" a vision of a red rose falling onto the paper of this poem and the rose underlined the title of the poem which was "Thirteen", because the poem had thirteen lines. And besides, my victim was number thirteen. The planets were aligning.

Armed with my little story I went into the debrief sessions. Each person told the tale of their meditation experience to the class without knowing who the recipient of their message was until they had recounted their entire story.

There were some surprises. Some, "oh wows," and some retorts of, "bogus." Lots of misses.

When it was my turn I almost chickened out on my plan to tell my story. It seemed completely ingenuine to make something up and then spring it on someone as a psychic revelation. Probably dishonest and potentially hurtful.

But I had nothing else. I had seen nothing but darkness behind my eyes during the meditation session and I didn't want to tell Mr. or Ms. 13 the spirit world had nothing to say to them. So given that a well-told story is indistinguishable from psychic fact, I pulled out my poem and told them about the blonde Polish woman, her poem, and her wayward husband.

At which point Matt, who was number 13, burst into a stream of tears and hysterics. He was inconsolable for a while. He hugged me and kissed me on the cheek and begged me for the paper upon which I'd written the poem and took it into his shaking hands.

Then he told me this story:

Thirteen years prior he'd been an exchange student in Poland and had met the most magical woman he'd ever encountered. She loved poetry, and they spent hours reading and translating each other's favorites from their native language into the other's. They became lovers, married, and he brought her to the United States to live with him. One day his new wife and his mother were driving to a shopping mall when a cement mixer swerved into their path from the oncoming lane and killed them both.

For thirteen years he'd been coming to courses at TMI hoping to contact his one and only love to no avail. My verbal description of the woman was that of his dead wife. He pulled a picture of her from his wallet and showed me the woman I had invented for my story. It was the face I had seen in my head and tried to describe on paper.

On the back of the picture it said: "So that you will know me anywhere."

And when I managed to pull myself off the floor, I didn't know, as I don't to this day, whether I'd invented Matt's dead wife,

...or had she invented me?

I do testify these events occurred at The Monroe Institute, in Faber, Virginia, on the evening of May 5th, 2000.

Matt (not his real name) has subsequently remarried. He has no desire to return to TMI, his purpose for going having been served. We meet periodically for lunch and dinner with our fellow TMI graduates and our families, drawn together, as my wife will say, by an invisible bond of weirdness that gives flavor to our lives.

And to my own love, I say fear not:

For I would know you anywhere, Though oceans and stones and years may intervene, I could more easily forget my home, Than the sound of your voice, The glide of your hand against my cheek.

And I will always love you, Neither time nor death shall quench that flame, Of everyone, you should know that's true.

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