Tuesday, September 18, 2012
OUI-JA: Yes, Yes? NO, NO.
When I was a grade school kid in St. Albans, WV, I was rummaging around in a basement closet where things like MONOPOLY games were stored, and came across a OUI-JA board [looking very like the one above in memory]. I asked Mother what it was [Dad was at work], and she said that it was just an old board game that used to be popular back when she was a high school student [that would have been the 1930s]. I asked her how it was played, and she began to describe it --- the thought dawning on me that this seemed very improbable what I was hearing. I was always somewhat of a "romantic" thinker, but this seemed ... well... nonsensical. She began to try to express that some people thought that something else... spirits... moved the planchet. This was stunning to say the least --- even to a Catholic boy who believed and still believes in such spirits. She then stopped and said that Dad did not like the OUI-JA board even being in the house [and probably didn't even know that Mom hadn't thrown it out long ago].
Whereas Mom was [and still is] a person who almost refuses to use her reasoning powers, preferring a simplistic feelings-in-the-moment way of living, Dad was the most brilliant elite thinker I had ever experienced [and remains one of the brightest in my experience even now]. Dad viewed the OUI-JA board as "valid" phenomenologically, but dangerous. He had thought deeply about it [as he did everything] and had come to the conclusion that the Church theologians had come to: this board was akin to things like trance mediumship and automatic writing --- not necessarily evil or dangerous [especially to begin with] but a hot, dark fire to be playing in. [I have put Mom's attempt to express what Dad told her in much more intellectual phrasing than she did]. I put the board back, and never even talked to Dad about it [wish that I had now, but I was just a kid].
Early in the life of this blog, what seems nearly a different age [September 8, 2009], I posted an entry on OUI-JA. A comment from the great Jesuit writer and sociologist, Andrew Greeley, had inspired me to "go take a look". So off to the internet I went. I found about 1000 cases where people were reporting their experiences. I used the first 500 that I found to make a crude study. The weight of the statistics told [to my view] a strong story: OUI-JA experiences started out childishly and fun, turned odd and a bit creepy, then turned dark. The majority of the persons reporting said that the experiences were negative and were not going "back in". A third said that the board was constantly into a morbid death theme and almost a quarter said that they themselves were given death threats. The most stunning element to me was the 40% reporting of poltergeist-like activities ultimately breaking out.
The above add: "Amusing, Scientific, Instructive", might be one of the more misleading immoral adds of all time. "Thought compelling" and "Deeply Interesting", yes.
So, unless I wanted to go back and log the second 500 cases that I found, I thought that I was through with this topic. But along comes reading New Atlantean Journal and LO!, another article on OUI-JA.
So, what did it say?
The thing was called: "Playing with unknown forces: The Ouija Board". [Andrew Piotrowski]. Author was identified as a Toronto Psi researcher preparing a book on researches into Ouija. He began the article with three stories. In the first, the person became addicted to "playing" the board. Phoney religious leaders began manifesting in the messages giving her dangerous advice, and finally an "invitation" to "come over" to them. She then attempted suicide. [failed fortunately]. Piotrowski described her condition as "possessed".
In the second case, a lonely woman felt that she had found a friend through the board. [on whatever the other side of it is]. The entity began giving her hope for a new relationship with some yet-to-be-met boyfriend. The board gave her the address where she should go to meet him. She did. Was raped and beaten, lost her senses, and is now institutionalized. [Great sales pitches for Ouija, eh?]
His third account was his own first experience, where he did not touch the planchet himself but just took dictation while others worked the board. He said that this was pleasant.
Piotrowski then stated that there have been several researchers in the past who consistently established that there is a real phenomenon here. In support of this, he cites William F. Barrett.
W F Barrett was the son of a protestant minister who became a leading physicist in late 19th century England. He is notable to us as the Founder of the Society for Psychical Research. And, in my opinion, the author of the best book studying Dowsing ever written. Barrett was interested in many elements of the psychic anomalies, including poltergeists. I have not made a study of Barrett, but would bet that his interest in poltergeists led him to Ouija. Barrett said that in the ouija ritual "communication with a supernormal intelligence did, indeed, take place; that it mingled with the personalities of the subjects and guided their muscular movements". And Piotrowski continued: therefore "the subjects were somehow taken over, used, manipulated by an unknown outside force, a force or personality other than the experimenters themselves." Ummmmm.... "don't sound good to me."
He then cites a modern Psi researcher named Ian Currie [sorry could not find a portrait]. Currie talked to many Mediums and psychics who spoke about Ouija. Although Currie sees Ouija as a mixed bag he says this: "The board tends to attract lesser spirits, personalities characteristically sadistic and psychopathic..... The board spirits are members of a terrorist world, citizens of a psychic jungle". .... great.
So, what is this "dance" all about? What's on the "other side of the mirror"? Is it Demonic? Is it "merely" Spirits of varying moralities and goals? Is this just a ritual which spills out our own nasty inner selves?
The Catholic Church says: Demons --- tricky ones, as are they all. My Dad decided that this seemed to be true, and Mom should throw the board away. I don't see this as just being us and our whacky brains in our worst light. Some of these experiences are so negative and physical that they really stretch that hypothesis for me... and, I'm an Irish-American Catholic, so as one of my younger brothers said "I/we believe that shit". [He was referring to why the movie The Exorcist scared the fudge out of him, despite being a 6'4" 280 pound defensive lineman and a weightlifting record holder.]
Till next time, play cards or watch football instead.
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