Earthbound: Concept Of Souls Attached To World Highlights Role Of Purgatory
By Michael H. Brown
It's referred to in the Bible. It's in our most profound literature. It has been mentioned by mystics, seers, and saints. It has figured into key apparition sites. It's the issue of earthbound souls. Is it true that at death some spirits are so attached to the world or so mired in darkness that they can't find the Light?
This comes to mind not just because October is the month of ghosts and Halloween -- preceding All Souls Day -- but because the topic is rising with increased frequency. At Medjugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Blessed Mother referred to departed souls that are allowed to manifest in order to solicit our prayers. Meanwhile, world-famous seer Maria Esperanza of Venezuela and her husband Geo have recounted to us many occasions during which souls have allegedly sought her intercession. The same was true of St. Padre Pio, who once said that more deceased souls came to him for help than living ones. Most recently we carried the account of a psychiatrist, Dr. George G. Ritchie, who as a young man had a near-death experience during which he claims to have seen countless discarnate spirits trapped in a netherworld and roaming the earth unseen by the average human.
During his experience in 1943, Dr. Ritchie -- whose near-death episode is considered one of the best-documented on record -- asserted that once out of his body, he witnessed scene after scene in which spirits trapped on the earth were attempting to interact with the living.
"I noticed this phenomenon repeatedly, people unaware of others right beside them," writes Ritchie in Return From Tomorrow. "I saw a group of assembly-line workers gathered around a coffee canteen. One of the women asked another for a cigarette, begged her in fact, as though she wanted it more than anything in the world. But the other one, chatting with her friends, ignored her. She took a pack of cigarettes from her coveralls, and without ever offering it to the woman who reached for it so eagerly, took one out and lit it. Fast as a striking snake the woman who had been refused snatched at the lighted cigarette in the other one's mouth. Again she grabbed at it. And again...
"With a little chill of recognition," said Dr. Ritchie, "I saw that she was unable to grip it."
Dr. Ritchie, whose death account inspired the famous bestseller Life After Life by Dr. Raymond Moody, said he "saw" such spirits in bars, on streets, and in other settings as they tried interacting with the living and clung to their old habits. The fact that such spirits can manifest to the living is also presented in the revelations of a deceased nun in a booklet called An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory, which has been granted an official imprimatur by the Catholic Church.
In fact, the detainment on earth is considered by some as a level of purgatory. Padre Pio described a young monk who had been negligent at his daily chores and was allowed to do his purgatory cleaning at night in a monastery chapel as a result. But in many cases, the entrapment is caused by an over-attachment to the material world, say seers and near-death experiencers. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth!" Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount.
"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!"
When he saw souls that had committed suicide, says Dr. Ritchie, they were trapped in the settings where they had died or to those they had negatively affected by their self-imposed deaths. Ritchie goes so far as to hypothesize that the "tunnel" people travel through after death is a protection as souls pass by this netherworld on the way to Jesus.
"An eternity like that -- the thought sent a chill shuddering through me -- surely that would be a form of hell," wrote Dr. Ritchie, now retired from the medical profession and living in Virginia. "I had always thought of hell, when I thought of it at all, as a fiery place somewhere beneath the earth where evil men like Hitler would burn forever. But what if one level of hell existed right here on the surface -- unseen and unsuspected by the living people occupying the same space. What if it meant remaining on earth but never again able to make contact with it? I thought of... the woman who wanted that cigarette."
In cases where contact is made, is this what is known as a "haunting"? Might it be that a haunted house is the result of an over-attachment?
These are controversial notions that need an airing at a time when most Christians have ceased praying for those who are dead. Christians are admonished in the Bible never to seek contact with the dead. Such is known as "necromancy." But it appears that occasionally the deceased are allowed to remind us, usually in dreams, or by signs, of their existence. These may be souls who are already at higher levels of purgatory. At other times we catch fleeting glimpses of souls that have not yet left.
Prayers and Masses said for such souls often free them of their bondage and are recommended in cases where strange incidents seem to inflict a household. There are those who believe that such souls can at times have a negative affect on the living. It is nothing to fear. It is instead a call for vigilance in keeping a home covered with prayer. When we are close to Jesus, nothing and no one can really harm us.
"They are wandering, they are stuck, tied to what they left behind," claims Geo. "They are wandering around the world without having a place to stay. There have been spirits that came close to Maria, spirits that seemed like they were destroyed, devastated. They had been wandering in like space, and as they got closer to Maria, she couldn't see them as recognizable figures, but as shades, and suddenly when Maria started praying for them, these amorphous forms recovered their human form, and thanks to prayer, started to rise to the Light."
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