This glossary was initially adapted from Seven Questions About The Greater Reality by Cynthia Spring and Frances Vaughan. We have expanded it into a general guide to some of the terms used in the arena of afterlife communication and related research fields. Some point to experiences that are beyond our ordinary comprehension; they are simply the best we can do for now, as our understanding evolves.
Automatic Writing: The ability to produce written words -- handwritten or typed -- via telepathy without deliberate, conscious thought. This may take the form of "taking dictation" or "translation" (hearing or sensing the words and writing them out) or "fully automatic writing," in which one's hand is moved directly by the source, sometimes reproducing the actual handwriting of a deceased person.
Channeling: This is the more general term for receiving messages from a spiritual guide or other discarnate being. The messages can be written, as in automatic writing, or simply spoken by the channeler. When a channeler in a trance state assumes the voice, speech patterns and/or personality of the source, they are more often termed a “medium.”
Cosmology: The study of how the physical universe came into existence and how it works.
Discarnate: A person or entity not presently (or ever) in a human body.
Dualism: The belief that reality consists of two irreducible, irreconcilable elements or modes - a "duality." A familiar example would be the philosopher René Descartes' separation of mind and matter. In a religious context the universe may be believed to be under the dominion of two opposing principles: good and evil. More common examples might include right/wrong and subject/object.
Incarnate: As a noun, this denotes a soul living in a physical body. As a verb, to incarnate means to take on a lifetime in a physical body.
Instrumental Trans-Communication (ITC): Communication from the "other side" via modern electronic devices. These include audio recorders, telephones and radio receivers, as well as photographic and video systems, fax machines and computers. You can find out more about ITC by watching Daniel Drasin's feature documentary, Calling Earth.
Lifetimes: This term usually refers to multiple physical lifetimes of the same entity. Viewed from within a linear space/time reality they are perceived as past, present or future. Viewed from beyond space/time they are perceived as happening "simultaneously."
Near-Death Experience (NDE): This term was coined by Dr. Raymond Moody in his book Life After Life (1976). It refers to a person being conscious despite having been declared clinically dead, i.e., having no respiration, heartbeat, or detectable brainwave activity. A person who experiences an NDE later returns to physical life and may describe a variety of experiences. These may include observation of their own physical body and its environment from an external vantage point. Many accounts contain some version of traveling to a nonphysical environment filled with light and love, and/or enabling experiences (visual, musical, etc.) not normally available in physical life. Often the experiencer reports not wanting to return to their body and/or being given a choice of returning, or not. "NDErs" almost universally report a diminished fear of death, a deeper appreciation of life, and a variety of positive personality changes.
Non-local consciousness: Awareness and volition not connected with, or dependent upon, a body or brain and therefore independent of space and time. In the realm of non-local consciousness, communication has no boundaries and is instantaneous. Aspects of quantum physics demonstrate a similar independence from the normal behaviors of space and time.
Out-of-Body Experience (OBE): This term was coined by parapsychology researcher Charles T. Tart in the early 1970s to describe reports from people who said they left their physical bodies and were able to see, hear, and move about in another kind of body, in physical as well as nonphysical dimensions of reality. Tart had worked with Robert Monroe, who described his OBEs in three books, beginning in 1971. Prior to this term being coined, the phenomenon was often called "astral travel" or "spiritual travel."
Oversoul: The terms "Oversoul," "Group Soul" and "Soul Group" are somewhat interchangeable. Their general meaning is an aggregation or composite of multiple individual souls, not all of which may be incarnate at the same time. In this view, each individual soul, upon its "return Home," is said to contribute its learning to the evolution of the greater whole. Variations on the idea of an "Oversoul" may be found in works as diverse as those of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Jane Roberts, who channeled "Seth." Another source defines "Oversoul" as "an element of spiritually awakened energy which has transcended the need for an individual experience (incarnation) in this earth world or any other realm."
Paranormal: The term applies to events and experiences that cannot be explained under the dominant cultural or scientific paradigm. Due to the strong cultural bias against the reporting of such events, it is difficult to assess how normal, or otherwise, they might actually be.
Pseudo-Skepticism: A form of scientific misconduct in which unusual phenomena and experiences are dismissed out of hand rather than being properly investigated. An example might be the trotting out of "professional skeptics" on TV shows to declare such things "impossible" on the basis of ignorance or disbelief rather than bona-fide inquiry. For more information see skepticalaboutskeptics.org and Dan Drasin's satirical animated video. "I'm a Skeptic."
Planes of Reality: Levels of existence that are said to be distinguished -- somewhat like musical octaves -- by the frequency of their underlying vibration ... or by degrees of "density." Our familiar physical plane, with its dense matter and linear time, is said to be among the lower or denser planes. The naming of the higher planes differs among various philosophies: terms like "astral," "mental" and "causal" are common but often confusing. The term “astral,” for example, has become a catch-all for various views about where we land after we die.
Remote Viewing ("RV"): The direct psychic perception of an aspect of the physical world (usually distant or hidden) without the use of normal physical senses. In people with well-developed RV talent, time and distance are not barriers to perception. Many parapsychology researchers, including Russell Targ, Stephan Schwartz and Charles T. Tart have participated in, and/or written about, successful, long-running, US-government-funded RV experiments. (The Stargate Chronicles: Memoirs of a Psychic Spy by Joseph McMoneagle and ESP Wars: East and West by Edwin May detail the CIA’s use of remote viewing during the Cold War.)
Shard: A fragment of a larger whole, i.e., a shard of broken glass. In some channeled works it refers to an individual member of a soul group -- usually one that has taken on a physical incarnation.
Space/Time: A common way of representing the "four-dimensional" reality that our physical bodies inhabit, and which we tend to perceive as a seamless "space-time" whole. The four dimensions are usually thought of as three of space and one of time. Another way of looking at them is in terms of the four inseparable constituents of physical reality: Space, time, matter and energy.
Spirit guides: Individual discarnate souls who have been assigned, or have chosen, to provide guidance, assistance and protection to an incarnate being during his or her lifetime. They may also help in the transition from physical life to the afterlife.
Terminal Lucidity: An inexplicable return of mental clarity and memory that occurs shortly before death in patients suffering from severe psychiatric or neurological disorders. It challenges the materialistic notion that the brain is the source of consciousness.