Inside the spirit world
He is president of The Office of Paranormal Studies; professor at Atlantic College and instructor of parapsychological studies at the California-based HCH Institute. His mentorship programme attracts students worldwide.
With such impressive credentials and experience, Lloyd Auerbach is the go-to guy when you need to understand the non-physical world. His forte is parapsychology, a field that has struggled to achieve acceptance as a veritable science by mainstream academia. But times have changed.
More than ever, quantitative instruments are used to test paranormal phenomena, such as hauntings, telekinesis, psychometry and psychokinesis. Now one-time sceptics are joining the ranks of believers. A recent article in The Atlantic (magazine) by Tiffanie Wen supported this social shift or "revival of paranormal beliefs".
It cited a 2013 Harris poll that "42 per cent of Americans say they believe in ghosts". Interestingly, 52 per cent of respondents in the United Kingdom expressed similar views.
However, Auerbach is unimpressed with reality TV and its portrayal of the paranormal investigator. "Many of these shows, for example, Ghost Hunters, are fraudulent. They pay lip service to the clinical and empirical work involved in such investigations. This undertaking is not as easy as television makes it out to be."
Auerbach baulks at the notion of God and the Devil, although he concedes that he has come face to face with deceptive spirits. "Injecting gods and devils into this subject changes the entire dynamic. I am not into magic and superstition. I am a scientist."
According to Auerbach, the spirit world mirrors the material world, "There is no huge difference. In the same way we encounter dangerous situations in life, we can also experience difficulties when we accept a job that we are ill equipped for."
In a field that can be unforgiving for a sophomore, Auerbach emphasises methodology and experience.
He identifies three areas of investigation: apparitions or ghosts; poltergeist phenomena; and residual haunting.
"Ghosts residing in homes and other places populated by people are not uncommon." Of the nature of ghosts, he is detailed. "They may have some unfinished business, or are trying to get their loved ones to 'let go', and not worry. Some seem to be waiting for someone to also pass away, or for something to happen."
He also hints that some ghosts are in denial of their own death, much in the same way that we are sometimes unwilling to accept a damning medical prognosis.
Other ghosts, he says, "feel too connected to their lives, their family, their work. Because they are so attached, they are still here".
Another thought-provoking explanation is the ghost's lingering fear of moving on. "This is something we hear quite frequently in the communications between ghosts and trance mediums. They simply don't know what's 'next' and fear the religious dogmas they were exposed to during life."
Auerbach says while many are startled and frightened by these sightings and can be psychologically scarred, ghosts do not cause physically harm to humans.
"Regrettably, we never ask a ghost what it wants and why is it residing there. It is important that we open some kind of dialogue so that we know how to proceed. We may ask it in a very friendly manner to leave.
"Confrontational posturing can only exacerbate the situation. You will be surprised at the friendly, comforting exchanges that occur," says Auerbach, as he argues that if that approach fails, you should see an experienced parapsychologist who will employ one or several methods to expel the resistant ghost.
Auerbach notes that a residual haunting is caused by impressions of highly emotional and violent scenes that occurred in a house before it was bought or rented.
"The new occupants are adversely affected by these negative vibrations that can ruin relationships." He recommends the burning of sage, a cleansing method used widely among the Native Americans.
He also advises the creation of an atmosphere that is light and friendly, for example, having social events at the residence. The goal, he explains, is to replace the heavy negative vibration with cheer and positivity.
Conversely, poltergeist phenomena are far more complex and may involve a variety of treatment modalities.
This rare occurrence is characterised by the unexplained movement of objects, sometimes forcibly; the disabling of electrical and electronic appliances; and trauma and scars to the body.
Remarkably, spirits do not cause this particular disturbance, as commonly believed.
"The victim's electrical impulses and vibration are causing changes in the immediate environment," explains Auerbach. "There are many reasons for this; overly stressful situations, psychological conflicts and scars that explode to the surface. These triggers could be flashbacks of incest and other forms of abuse."
He also cautions that neurological issues could be involved and advises such a victim to explore the full array of possibilities.
If one stumbles on a situation involving the paranormal, Auerbach warns on the importance of a psychic shield.
"This is done by visualising oneself surrounded by a protective light. It is fundamental, very basic but powerful when done with intent. The key is intention and that applies to every action undertaken in this field," says Auerbach.
In a world dominated by science and the need to know through rigorous testing, the parapsychologist has emerged as an authentic source for 'spiritual' truth. Gone are the days when faith was the sole anchor. Today, science is adding another layer to faith: data that proves what was only once believed.
n Dr Glenville Ashby is a social critic and president of Global Interfaith Council.Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @glenvilleashby