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Notes on counselling

The graveyard and the intensive care unit — occult implications

Dr. Soumitra Basu


Negative forces with occult implications1 can produce disharmony and illness. Children who attend rituals at graveyards and critically ill patients admitted in intensive-care units can be especially susceptible to such influences.

One day a lady came to me with a strange history. She had been admitted a few days back into the intensive care unit of a busy neurosciences hospital in a cosmopolitan city and recovered from a mild cerebral stroke. While her neurological status improved, she became very distressed psychologically following a repetitive dream she used to have while in the intensive care unit. She dreamt of being dramatically shown a big graveyard and some beings constantly reminding her that they had the power to transfer the patients from the intensive care unit straight to the graves if they so wanted. She saw an endless array of graves in a grim and grotesque milieu waiting to receive their share of victims. The beings warned her that any disobedience of them would end in a sinister fate. The atmosphere of the graveyard was heavy, listless but buzzing with those beings, ostensibly of some other world. This recurrent dream stopped when she was released from the hospital but had unnerved her so much that she felt so insecure, restless and demoralised that she needed psychiatric consultation. 

This lady was not aware that the hospital where she had been admitted was actually situated at the corner of the busiest Christian graveyard of the city. The place was a property of the civic authorities that had allowed a neurosciences centre to be set up there. Incidentally, as a psychiatrist, I had often come across patients admitted in that hospital who had problems which otherwise were not such as to attract attention, like unexpected relapses after reasonable recovery and which had led me to think some years back that it was not a wise decision to build a hospital on or near graveyard land. My apprehensions were proved right with this lady’s dreams that showed the presence and power of occult forces in the milieu of a graveyard could influence recovery and create new levels of disharmony.  

In fact, for over three decades, I have come across a few times chronic psychiatric patients where the onset of the disease could be traced to childhood when the child had typically visited a graveyard or funeral ground to attend the last rites of a relative, usually a grandparent. Such a history is not uncommon; what is common is that it is ignored as a trivial and superstitious association not important enough to be taken into account.  

The atmosphere of an intensive care unit of any hospital has its own implications. Usually, an intensive care unit admits cases of medical emergency and the mortality rate is quite high compared to other units. The atmosphere remains impersonal, heavy, dull and listless and is full of negative occult forces. A stay in an intensive unit may help to surmount an acute medical emergency but is not supposed to have much recuperating value.  

As a counsellor, these experiences have led to my discouragement in allowing children to attend funeral grounds and graveyards unless absolutely unavoidable (as when there would be no one to take care of the child at home or the child could not be sent elsewhere). It may be argued that with occult protection, a child may be allowed to do so. This would be still risky as the graveyard or funeral ground is somewhat a historical repository of negative forces and vital beings that seem to wait in the wings to influence an unsuspecting subject. Children can become unwilling victims and thus need to be shielded.  

Likewise, it would also be judicious to keep the stay in an intensive care unit as short as possible till the acute medical crisis is overcome. So many times I have had to tell relatives of elderly people in a terminal stage to allow the subject to gracefully depart in the comfort and care of their own home, in the presence of their nearest and dearest. We have not yet learnt to deal with elderly terminal patients and in the zeal of serving them, we subject them to a thousand and one useless interventions in the impersonal milieu of a gloomy intensive care unit. Instead of departing with an array of gadgets, tubes and pumps criss-crossing the body as if it were a collapsing machine in a defeatist battle, it would be more beautiful to depart in one’s favourite bed, in one’s favourite room and amidst the prayers and aspirations of one’s own favourite folk. Such a departure does not endorse defeatism but is indeed a victory and an act of Grace.


While competing this manuscript, I am called upon to see a pre-adolescent girl, who has been brought from a district town about 700 km away, where the psychiatrist was puzzled as the occasional psychosomatic symptoms, associated with a seemingly meaningless blurt of self-muttering in an otherwise healthy, jolly and a bright schoolgirl, did not fit into any standard diagnostic category. She was performing excellently in studies, belonged to a harmonious family and had stable peer-relations. As she stands before me, I ask her parents if there is any graveyard near their home. She goes into a trance-like state and murmurs about the burial ground close to her home which keeps on invading her world of fantasy while her father explains that the school where she studies has been erected over a burial ground and might be carrying a negatively charged atmosphere not conducive to growing children.

We may not be aware but the world of the occult pervades, penetrates and engulfs us, influencing our life and well-being, shaping our responses and triggering off newer levels of disequilibrium that can manifest through illness.   

1The ‘occult’ deals with invisible, supraphysical forces that appear mysterious as they do not arise from the physical substrate and hence are inaccessible to our ordinary sensory perception. Occultism implies the knowledge and technique to handle such forces by application of the theory of four dimensional or multi-dimensional space.

Dr. Soumitra Basu, a practising psychiatrist and member of SAIIIHR, is the Director of a school of psychology, Integral Yoga Psychology. He is also one of the editors of NAMAH.

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