Ouija, a door to...where?
by Lucia del Mar
Since the beginning of times, all that we can not explain or understand is bound to be feared. Of course, the Ouija is no exception. Its origin is as mystery and the theories of how and why it works are many. What we do know for certain is that talking boards boom came along with spiritism.
As the Spirita movement grew strong in society; with World War I, leaving broken families, the need to communicate with the afterlife, results in the search for different and clearer contact methods. It is here that the Ouija or talking board’s popularity goes up. It consists on the alphabet, numbers 0 to 9, and the words: YES, NO, HELLO and GOODBYE. Over the board, a planchette or master slides to form words apparently on its own or at will of the spirit, serving it as a mean to talk into this plane.
But is the Ouija board a portal to the afterlife? A portal to other worlds? is it a door to the subconscious mind or SMS with a kind of collective consciousness? Let us consider the different opinions by the main institutions the shaped the general opinion of the people.
For the church, Ouija, like any other method of divination is forbidden. Since to religion, mainly Catholic, once you die your immortal soul leaves to heaven or hell for all eternity; a working Ouija would imply a heavy question to this believe. The the easiest to do is to instill on people the fear of God’s wrath or demonic possession.
The general concept Hollywood gives is no better, it is almost cliche horror films that begin with a Ouija, the most famous was "The Exorcist". This film is based on real events, with some changes, was not a girl but a boy; some information was not included in the film, in order for it to have greater impact on the onlooker. Nowhere in the movie was mentioned that the story begins with an aunt, a medium that taught the boy, (later called Robbie to protect his true identity) to use the Ouija. This aunt was very dear to him and when she died, the young man tried to contact her through the spirit board. Looking at the whole story and classifying the following events there is very little space for supernatural in here: a medium, devotedly religious parents. A painful loss and a young man whose age keeps him in constant conflict. Psychologically the use of Ouija only added to the already tense situation, provoking a psychotic break that later would lead to a serious demonopathy.
For the Spirita world, the talking board is just one more way to facilitate communication with those who have left this plane of existence, in fact before the full fury of unfounded fear and terror by the church and the cinema; any respectable and family was known for organizing a Ouija meeting on Saturday night and go to church on Sunday.
For science, specially for psychology, Ouija board is just another way to get in touch with the subconscious mind. Be it collective or individual. The Board allows us to connect with that part of the brain that lays asleep during the waking hours, thus giving us the illusion that its a another (be is spirit, demon or entity) that is expressing trough the board and not just ourselves. 90% of times, the information given by the Ouija is knowledge that we already had.
This theory was later proven by Larry Bayou. He sat for hours watching a group people successfully use the Ouija, then he repeated the experience but this time, everyone was blindfolded. Indeed the master moved, but it was unable to form a single word, clear sign the since its us unconsciously moving the master (ideomotor movement), we need to see the board.
Psychologists Hélène Gauchou and Ron Rensink also experimented with this idea, they put two people, one in front of another, only one was blindfolded, so it could not see when the partner removed its fingers from the Ouija, the master also moved, but again no words came up.
The thing is, the Ouija board should not be taken lightly, not everyone can really use it without suffering from autosuggestion, specially if they feel guilty or fearful of divine retribution. A person with a weak personality, probably would not understand that the Ouija could open the door to our own fears, that it might even manifest them. Even more, most people makes the terrible mistake to prepare the environment for terror, with a grim, dark and creepy set up.
Whatever you think or conclude of this, it is important to understand how it works,be realistic, a bit skeptic and have fun. Be it a door to the afterlife, to another plane, a way to contact extraterrestrials or a way to self knowledge; Ouija board did and still will generate controversy and debate and a lot of enthusiasm among paranormal lovers. To me, its just another Oracle, what is the Ouija to you?