How Real Are the Spirits Seen During Visualization?

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2012
The story of “Philip” the “imaginary” spirit is illustrative of how the innocent use of the imagination may result in spirit contact and possession.

How Real Are the Spirits Seen During Visualization?

Fantasy Spirits?

The story of “Philip” the “imaginary” spirit is illustrative of how the innocent use of the imagination may result in spirit contact and possession. Coauthor Weldon documented this principle in Playing with Fire, describing a young man who became possessed through an “imaginary” mock séance.[1] Whether real or imaginary (in the mind of an individual), the spirit world may still respond when beckoned. The story of “Philip” has a similar theme and is reported in the book Conjuring Up Philip and elsewhere.[2]

A group of psychic investigators and parapsychologists with the Toronto Society for Psychical Research came together to see if they could, through “collective mental power alone,” that is, imagination and visualization, create the physical phenomena found in a séance and produce a materialized spirit. They named him “Philip” and gave him an imaginary past and personality.

They eventually succeeded—quite beyond their expectations and remain puzzled to this day, indeed, awed over the subsequent events. What entered their parlor was not an imaginary spirit, but a genuine, living spirit being with its own personality and power, and which certainly was not part of the group’s “collective” mind or energy. Incredibly, however, the group continued to believe that this independent spirit entity and the phenomena it produced were merely the result of their own “imaginative powers.”

One result of this experiment—as knowledge of it spread through articles, a book, and a film—was the camouflaging of spiritistic phenomena in the guise of human potential. “Philip groups” began all over the world, attempting to duplicate the phenomena of the Toronto group. Thus, “the most important feature of this book is the fact that it specifies the method by which the physical PK [psychokinesis] force can be generated by ordinary people and thus made available for study.”[3]

The only problem was that the “imaginary” spirits contacted “act with their own personalities and idiosyncrasies and not as though they were a part of your subconscious mind.”[4] Therefore, many “Philip groups” ended up in actual spirit contact and necromancy.

Not surprisingly, then, in modern channeled literature the spirits actively endorse visualization, recommending specific exercises for learning how to contact them and become a channel. The spirit guide of the late medium Jane Roberts, “Seth,” teaches that “the real work is done in the mind…. [Occult] beliefs automatically mobilize your emotional and imaginative powers…. Imagination and emotion are your great allies.”[5]

The following instructions and advice given by two other spirits is typical:

Enter into the trance state you have practiced…. Imagine yourself going higher and higher, transcending ordinary reality and entering into a higher dimension of love, light, and joy…. Imagine that many beings of light are coming closer to join you. Feel their love and caring for you. Open your heart to receive them. Imagine the doorways opening between your reality and theirs. Sense the presence of many loving and high beings all around you…. Your guide and the guides are aware of you and hold a special welcome for you as you join more closely with them. Imagine that there is a doorway in front of you…. When you are ready, walk through this doorway…. Ask for the highest guide and teacher who is aligned with you to come forward. Imagine that your guide, a special guide, is coming forward. Sense this guide, feel his or her love for you. Be open to receive. Feel your heart welcoming this guide. Feel the response. Believe that it is really happening! Your imagination is the closest ability you have to channeling, and it is the easiest connection your guide has to you at first…. Greet your guide…. Mentally carry on a conversation with this guide…. Ask your guide to begin doing all that he or she can to open the channel, now that you are committed and ready to verbally channel.[6]

Even cancer therapists O. Carl Simonton and Stephanie Matthews-Simonton, who employ visualization in a professional setting for cancer therapy, accept this theme of using “imaginary” spirit guides for supposed healing processes. An examination of their book indicates that they are encouraging nothing less than a form of spiritism. (For examples, see our Knowing the Facts About the New Age Movement, eBook.)

Consider another illustration of how visualization can cause one to contact the spirit world. In Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space, leading consciousness explorers Masters and Houston tell others how to use visualization and trance to develop psychic awareness, monistic consciousness, and then to raise and contact what they term a “Group Spirit.” This is all done as a means to advance the cause of psychic development. Participants actually offer “obeisance” to a materialized spirit masquerading in the form of the collective group consciousness of the “players.”[7]

Yet, as in the case of “Philip,” this “mental” group entity is described as “an entity with an independent existence of its own,”[8] and as “an actual, intelligent being, conscious and powerful.”[9] In actuality, the participants in such exercises hold a séance under another name.

We are beginning to go now into trance together. We are going to experience deepening together, and, finally, each of us will contribute to the pool of consciousness out of which the Group Spirit will draw its substance and arise to exist once again.

And we are going to cause to rise now, out of that pool, the entity we have called the Group Spirit….

You will be aware of that emergence, and of the Group Spirit’s location in space, there at the center. And you will concentrate on that space, focus intensely and remain focused on that space, and understand now we can and must materialize the Group Spirit, endowing that entity with a sufficiently material being that it can appear to us But we can materialize this entity, by concentrating on the center and vividly imagining, powerfully imagining, the flow of substance, of material, from you and into that center, where the pool has been created by us.[10]

This is little different from the visualization process described earlier, in which occult magician Conway described how magic ritual is used to conjure the spirit that possesses the magician. And the purpose is also similar: inspiration and guidance from the entity:

Go and stand before the place we have designated to be the residing place of this entity we have evoked. Request inspiration in the form of a dance or a song or a chant, something that can be performed by you now, as an offering and in celebration of the spirit of our group….

After that, as instructed by the guide, each player successively will stand near the center of the circle, receiving inspiration, and then carrying out whatever movements or sounds or other behavior the person feels motivated to do and experiencing this motivation as coming directly from the Group Spirit….

The Group Spirit will appear to you in a dream and you will be able to gain a clear and detailed impression of its appearance, and you may be able to enter into a conversation with it, and various things might be revealed to you.[11]

Prominent educator Jack Canfield also recommends spiritism under another name. He encourages teachers to assist their students to perform a guided imagery exercise developed by Paula Klimek, who is with the Center for Holistic Education. This occult exercise is to be used by students as early as the sixth grade:

It is a very powerful experience which can help students become aware of their essential nature, their highest potential, their unique gift to the world, and their life purpose. Especially as kids enter adolescence, they often become confused and are usually unable to get clear answers from their parents or their teachers about many basic questions of life, such as: Who am I? What difference does my life make? and What do I really want to do? My experience has been that when those core questions are addressed from within and when students experience recognition and affirmation of their essence, their core self, and their inner wisdom, remarkable transformations occur.[12]

But this exercise deliberately attempts to have children contact and develop a relationship with their “special guide”:

You are about to meet a special guide, your own special guide. A guide whom you may ask what the purpose of your life is…. Meet this guide and pose your question…. Feel your guide’s unconditional love and strength and beauty…. Let whatever happens happen…. Communicate with your guide in whatever way possible…. Listen to your guide….[13]

Another example of visualization-induced spiritism is found in Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization:

Each one of us has all the wisdom and knowledge we ever need right within us…. The inner guide is known by many different names, such as your counselor, spirit guide, imaginary friend, or master. It is a higher part of yourself, which can come to you in many different forms, but usually comes in the form of a person or being whom you can talk to and relate to as a wise and loving friend….

[Through visualization] go to your inner sanctuary and spend a few minutes there, relaxing, getting oriented…. See in the distance a form coming toward you, radiating a clear, bright light….

Greet this being, and ask him or her what their name is…. Ask your guide if there is anything he or she would like to say to you, or any advice to give you at the moment….

Also your guide may change form and even name from time to time. Or you may have the same one for years. You may have more than one guide at the same time.

Your guide is there for you to call on anytime you need or want extra guidance, wisdom, knowledge, support, creative inspiration, love or companionship. Many people who have established a relationship with their guide meet them every day in their meditation.[14]

The previous process is similar to those found in many other practices; for example, using the imagination to construct “imaginary advisors” in New Age seminars such as authors for “The Secret,”[15] est and The Forum,[16] Mind Psi Biotics, or Silva Mind Control.[17] Various cults and fringe or humanistic psychotherapies, which have reached millions, do the same.

Many of the “fantasy role-playing” games, such as Dungeons and Dragons,[18] may also use the imagination to foster an interest in the occult. In such cases “creative visualization” is used to guide the individual into encounters with allegedly imaginary nonmaterial entities, forces, or spirits.[19] Again, it is often claimed that the entities are mere fantasies and have no basis in reality. But don’t tell that to the people who ended up contacting real spirits.

Medicinal Spirits?

Visualization spiritism is also becoming increasingly popular in health and medicine. Popular osteopath and author Dr. Irving Oyle recommends the contacting of a personal “ally” or “guide” through visualization practices in his New American Medicine Show:

Think of the most beautiful place you can imagine and pretend you are there. Mentally create the sounds, the smells, and the body sensations appropriate to being in that place….

In your mind’s eye, as you continue the previous steps, look around casually. You may be surprised to see or otherwise sense the presence of a living creature—a person, an animal, a plant, something which lives in the place you have recalled….

This creature is your ally, your guide and advisor; your psychoanalyst, if you will. A hologram printed out by your biocomputer [mind], which pops spontaneously into your empty awareness….

Befriend your guide in the best manner you know. Feed it, pet it, ask its name; find out if it’s male or female….

Ask your guide if he or she is willing to meet with you for fifteen minutes daily for a period of one week. (They always agree.)

In return for your offering, and to seal your agreement, ask your ally to demonstrate a sign of its power. This may be immediate relief of a physical symptom or an answer to a thorny life problem.

In the remaining steps your holographic ally tells you why you made your illness and suggests specific life transformations which will initiate the healing process…. The method is an adaptation of Carl Jung’s method of active imagination….[20]

Oyle also cites a case history in which “the ally appeared without being actually summoned.”[21]

Dennis T. Jaffe of the UCLA School of Medicine Psychiatry Department (PhD, Yale), and David E. Bresler, director of the UCLA hospital’s pain control unit, also stress the importance of inner advisers as an adjunct to medical diagnosis and treatment:

Clinicians like ourselves are experimenting with many creative and highly experimental uses of mental imagery. One of the most dramatic techniques we have used involves what is known as “the inner adviser.” This technique, popularized by Irving Oyle (1976) and Samuels and Bennett (1973), is utilized by many health practitioners. By creating and interacting with an inner adviser, a person learns to gather important information from their subconscious….

As clinicians we have been surprised, not only by the immense value of guided imagery, but at how receptive most patients are to the technique as part of medical treatment….[22]

It is our hope that health professionals from all disciplines will begin to utilize them [inner advisers] to help their patients more effectively help themselves.[23]

Jaffee and Bresler also describe how the patient is to wait upon and trust her “adviser”:

It is important to wait until the adviser appears in human, animal, or other life form…. When the adviser arrives, the person is asked to greet it, and to begin the process of getting to know the adviser. This might include introducing themselves, and learning the adviser’s name…. People usually have the experience of receiving surprising or unexpected information from this inner oracle.[24]

As the patient begins to know his inner guide, she is then supposed to ask other inner advisers into the mind. “After patients develop a strong relationship with an adviser, we recommend that they find other advisers as well. We suggest that patients invite their advisers to bring mates or other acquaintances to the next meeting.”[25]

Paradoxically, the teachings of these “benevolent advisers” is not exactly healthful, especially in an era of AIDS. For example, “One of the new advisers was a rabbit named Rachel, who told Terry, ‘You only live once, and life is very short. Why not make it as sweet as you can? Have as many different sexual experiences as possible, and don’t worry about attachments. Just live loose and free!’”[26]

Jaffee and Bresler think that these advisers only “represent dialogues between different parts of one’s nervous system.”[27] Nevertheless, as they stated, this technique was developed by two spiritists, Mike Samuels, MD, and Hal Bennett, who, as we noted, are the authors of Spirit Guides: Access to Inner Worlds.[28]

There is little doubt that visualization techniques can and do result in the contact of genuine spirit beings, regardless of how they may be redefined as part of the human imagination or “nervous system.”[29] Until recent times, visualization had been relegated to occultists and shamans. Today, new updated forms are being employed by medical doctors, athletes, teachers, artists, businessmen, and even some clergymen. Unfortunately, because many professionals have little understanding of the mechanics of spiritual deception, they have unknowingly allowed themselves to become pawns in a battle whose players are invisible to them. The idea that some of our best-educated professionals are beginning to practice sorcery under the pretense of science and health is no longer the unimaginable concept it once was.


  1. John Weldon, James Bjornstad, Playing With Fire (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1984), p. 73.
  2. I. M. Owen, “The Making of a Ghost,” Psychic, July-August 1975; “Generation of Paranormal Physical Phenomena with an Imaginary Communicator” and “Philip’s Story Continued,” in New Horizons, Toronto Society for Physical Research, Volume 1, Number 3, and Volume 1, Number 4; I. M. Owen, M. Sparrow, Conjuring Up Philip (NY: Harper and Row, 1976).
  3. A. R. G. Owen in I. M. Owen and M. Sparrow, Conjuring Up Philip (NY: Harper and Row, 1976), p. xviii.
  4. Mike Samuels, Hal Bennett, The Well Body Book (NY: Bookworks/Random House, 1982), p. 8.
  5. Jane Roberts, The Nature of Personal Reality: A Seth Book (NY: Bantam, 1978), pp. 64-65, 76.
  6. Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer, Opening to Channel: How to Connect with Your Guide (Tiburon, CA: H. J. Kramer, Inc., 1987), pp. 80-82.
  7. Robert Masters, Jean Houston, Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space (NY: Delta, 1981), pp. 198-206.
  8. Ibid., p. 203.
  9. Ibid., p. 198.
  10. Ibid., pp. 199-201.
  11. Ibid., p. 202.
  12. Jack Canfield, The Inner Classroom: Teaching With Guided Imagery (Amhurst, MA: Institute for Wholistic Education, 1981), p. 14.
  13. Ibid., p. 15.
  14. Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization (Mill Valley, CA: Whatever Publishing, Inc., 1983), pp. 91-93.
  15. See
  16. A video debate between Jose Silva, John Weldon, Dave Hunt and George DeSau is available from The John Ankerberg Show, P. O. Box 8977, Chattanooga, TN 37414.
  17. See
  18. John Weldon, James Bjornstad, Playing With Fire (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1984).
  19. Irving Oyle, The New American Medicine Show: Discovering the Healing Connection (Santa Cruz, CA: Unity Press, 1979), pp. 141-43.
  20. Ibid., p. 145.
  21. Dennis T. Jaffe and David E. Bresler, “The Use of Guided Imagery as an Adjunct to Medical Diagnosis and Treatment,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Volume 20, Number 4 (1980), pp. 54-56.
  22. Ibid., p. 58.
  23. Ibid., p. 56.
  24. Ibid., pp. 57-58.
  25. Ibid., p. 58.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Mike Samuels, M.D., Hal Bennett, Spirit Guides: Access to Inner Worlds (NY: Random House, Inc., 1974).
  28. Ibid., pp. 29-33, 53-55.

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