The psychomanteum is a gazing mirror used for making contact with those who have passed on. Dr. Raymond Moody (of the book "Life After Life" fame) made this ancient technique popular with his book "Reunions: Visionary Encounters With Departed Loved Ones."
The best description I’ve found of this technique comes from this website’s description:
“The initial setup is a little more complex and costly than that of a scrying mirror. A large mirror (4' high by 3-1\2' wide) is attached to a wall with the bottom edge about 3' from the floor. A comfortable, high backed chair is placed about 3' from the mirror. The top of the backrest of the chair should be below the bottom of the mirror. The feet of the chair should be trimmed to allow the chair to slant farther back than is normal.
The person sitting in the chair should not be able to see his/her reflection in the mirror. The area around the chair and mirror is surrounded by a black velvet curtain. This black void should be all that is reflected in the mirror. A lamp with a 15 watt bulb is placed behind the chair. This is the only illumination in the room.
This procedure is usually performed after dark to alleviate the problem of light entering the room through the windows. Thick, dark curtains or a room without windows would allow you to use the psychomanteum even during the day.
Proper mental preparation is essential for this procedure to work. Dr. Moody starts his participants at 10:00 AM. They are requested to bring personal items from the deceased person that is to be contacted. Throughout the day they discuss the deceased. At dusk the participant enters the psychomanteum. He/she is told to stay as long as they like. They were also told to blank their mind except for thoughts of the deceased and to gaze into the mirror. “
Although my own experience with using a psychomanteum is minimal (two sessions), I can attest to the fact that at one point a dark man’s shape appeared in the mirror and he stood there for some time before stepping back and out of sight. Whether that was an actual spirit or not is, of course, impossible to prove. I am more inclined to think that in the dim lighting and the reflective surface and my mind which was focused on a dead relative, I was able to make out shapes and shadows and then impart in them human-like qualities. Sort of like seeing exactly what you expect to see, such as folks who are in haunted locations making out shapes in the dark to be spirits. Humans are highly suggestible creatures.
This experiment has two things working against it. One thing is that the participant must immerse herself in items of the deceased, go there with the intention of reaching that loved one, and all the emotional feelings that the desire to talk to the dead produces. The other issue is that a mirror and low lighting are use to see things and as anyone who was brave enough as a kid to call on “Blood Mary” or “Esmerelda come to me” knows, you can see all kinds of things by virtue of the lighting, reflectivity, and the very real human need to find shapes in inanimate objects.
I would never advise people using this during periods of grief or those seeking a kind of resolution with souls of the departed. This is purely for experimental purposes and best used by people who have no existing emotional issues that might cloud the experience or leave them frightened. I would also want to exclude those of a highly religious background, as they might be more likely to fight against the taboo notions that go with trying to communicate with the dead. A lot of people, even as grownups, do not like gazing into mirrors in dim lighting. Highly suggestible people are most susceptible to ill effects and bad reactions. If your feet are firmly planted in this world, then anything you imagine or see is purely entertainment, like watching TV. You are there as a witness, more or less.
If you decide to experience a psychomanteum encounter, do not do so alone. Whether you realize it or not, just the active trying to create a portal to the dead can make feelings erupt and having someone there to sort it through with is helpful.
I do not see anything about the psychomanteum to suggest it actually will help speak with spirits, but I do believe that such experiments might help to bring the mind into a place where it can receive information, somewhat like meditation or psychic trances. It is, however, an intriguing thought. I personally think it would be interesting in my writer’s office to have a psychomanteum in the corner of the room like some folks keep stationary bicycles. It is a unique way to open the mind to what is beyond our realm in a way that encourages you to be sort of deprived of distractions, a kind of focusing tool.
Whether you believe in the phenomenon of psychomanteums or not, they have been with man for a very long time (ancient Greeks) and will continue to be a curiosity for the living.
I am planning on performing a psychomanteum experiment with my POE team and will report back the findings.